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ISIS poses a “credible threat” to the Rio Olympics, admitted Brazil’s Counterterrorism Director Luiz Alberto Sallaberry, but numerous measures are being taken to prevent an attack. With just three month until the Games commence, the country is on high alert and preparing for any eventuality.
Due to the country’s relatively low profile in the international arena and its non-aligned status, Brazil has historically faced little threat from extremists. However, due to the high publicity of the event, increasing extremist activity worldwide, and a rise in the number of ISIS-sympathising Brazilian nationals the threat level for the South American country has increased dramatically, Sallaberry said in a statement.
Brazil has undertaken multiple measures to prevent disaster, Sallaberry said, including increasing information sharing programmes with foreign intelligence agencies.
These measures, however, may not be enough. Security experts warn that officials in the country may be underestimating the threat and how an attractive target the Olympics presents to would-be attackers.
More than 500,000 visitors are expected to attend the Games, and terrorists could have designs on them, the participating athletes, or nearby infrastructure. With such an array of potential attack sites and such high publicity, the payoff for extremists could be huge.
A direct threat on the state from ISIS has already been made. Maxime Hauchard, a French national serving as executioner in ISIS propaganda videos, tweeted in November: “Brazil, you are our next target.”
To protect the Games, organisers plan to deploy some 85,000 security personnel in earmarked areas, almost double the amount used for the London 2012 Olympics. A large number of them will be members of the National Force for Public Security, an interdepartmental body of police and other law enforcement officials.