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US designates 3 men in Brazil as affiliated with al-Qaida

Rio de Janeiro
Posted at 6:43 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 18:43:34-05

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday designated three men in Brazil as being affiliated with al-Qaida and having given support to the terrorist group.

The Treasury said the action targets the international financing of al-Qaida. It said all property and interests in property of the three men and any entities that they own in the United States or that are in the possession or control of U.S. residents must be blocked and reported to the Treasury.

Brazil's federal police force declined to comment on the U.S. statement, and said it also does not comment on whether investigations might be in progress

The Treasury Department's statement identified one of the men as Mohamed Sherif Mohamed Awadd, who it said arrived in Brazil in 2018 and has received wire transfers from other al-Qaida associates in the country. Awadd owns a furniture store in Guarulhos, a city in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, the statement said.

The statement alleged that Awadd and Ahmad Al-Khatib, the owner of another furniture store in Guarulhos, gave technological or financial support to the terrorist group.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach the two men by phone were unsuccessful.

The Treasury linked the two men to Ahmad Al-Maghrabi, who it said arrived in Brazil in 2015 and became al-Qaeda's contact in the country. It gave no further details on Maghrabi's residence or livelihood and did not report anything about any alleged collusion between him and the other two.

"The activities of this Brazil-based network demonstrate that al-Qa'ida remains a pervasive global terrorist threat, and today's designations will help deny the group access to the formal financial system," Treasury Undersecretary Brian E. Nelson said in the statement.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attack, the U.S. government has imposed financial sanctions in different countries seeking to limit financing of terrorist groups. About 300 citizens allegedly affiliated with al-Qaida and other extremist groups have been targeted.

The terrorism designation announced Wednesday was the third U.S. action involving Brazil over the last week.

Brazilian authorities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that four individuals were arrested last Thursday for alleged involvement in online threats, hate crimes and the planning of mass casualty events.

The people belonged to neo-Nazi cells that were planning attacks in public areas, such as schools, as well as hate crimes against Jewish and black civilians, U.S. officials said in a statement. One of the perpetrators confessed he was planning to bomb a New Year Eve's celebration in Sao Paulo state, the statement said.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on people and businesses connected to drug trafficking gangs, including the biggest criminal organization in Brazil, known as the PCC. The is meant "to target any foreign person engaged in drug trafficking activities, regardless of whether they are linked to a specific kingpin or cartel," the Treasury said.

In 2019, the FBI said it was looking for an Egyptian in Brazil, Mohamed Ahmed Elsayed Ahmed Ibrahim, on suspicion of acting as an al-Qaida agent and facilitator for attacks on the United States since 2013.

Brazilian media reported then that Mohamed had entered the country in 2018 and was authorized to live in Brazil.

Brazil has had an anti-terrorism law since 2016, passed before the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro that year. Days before the opening ceremony, the country's federal police arrested 10 people who allegedly belonged to a cell that had professed allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group.

-------- Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.