Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 - Triborder Area (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay)

The Triborder area (TBA) – where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge – has long been characterized as a regional hub for Hizballah and HAMAS fundraising activities, but it is also used for arms and drug trafficking, contraband smuggling, document and currency fraud, money laundering, and the manufacture and movement of pirated goods. Although there were numerous media reports in 2002 of an al-Qaida presence in the TBA, these reports remained uncorroborated by intelligence and law-enforcement officials.

In December, a high-level interagency delegation from the United States attended a special meeting in Buenos Aires of the Tripartite Commission of the Triple Frontier, a security mechanism established by the three TBA countries in 1998. This "Three Plus One" meeting (the three TBA countries plus the United States) is intended to serve as a continuing forum of counterterrorism cooperation and prevention among all four countries. At the conclusion of the December talks, the four countries agreed to establish a permanent working group to examine specific counterterrorism issues affecting the four countries. The first issue the working group will tackle in 2003 is that of terrorist fundraising on behalf of Hizballah and HAMAS. Experts from the "Three Plus One" countries will share available information on the problem, draw conclusions, and cooperate to reinforce existing countermeasures.

Host of the December meeting on the Triborder area and a past target of international terrorism, the Government of Argentina demonstrated its continuing strong support for the global war on terrorism throughout 2002. Argentina cooperated closely in all significant international counterterrorism efforts within the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS), where it was vice-chair of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism; the United States was chair. The Argentine Government was instrumental in promoting improved coordination with its neighbors (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Chile) in strengthening security and countering terrorist-support networks in the Triborder area. The Government of Argentina has been particularly cooperative in responding to requests related to blocking the financial assets of terrorists. Argentina is a party to eight of the 12 conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.

In 2002, Argentina reiterated its offer – initially made shortly after the September 11 attacks – of material support for UN-mandated Coalition peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan or elsewhere, if needed.

Although there were no acts of international terrorism in Argentina in 2002, investigations into the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of the Argentina-Israeli Community Center (AMIA) continued. The trials of 20 suspects in the AMIA bombing – of whom 15 are former police officers – were expected to continue well into 2003.

Since 11 September 2001, Argentina has made no significant progress in enacting new antiterrorism laws that would facilitate the investigation and prosecution of terrorists – largely because past abuses by military regimes have limited the degree to which the public will accept an enhancement of the Government's police powers. In January, the Government created a new office within the Foreign Ministry to coordinate action and policy on international counterterrorism issues, however. In October, Argentina also established a new Financial Intelligence Unit to investigate money laundering and terrorist finance-related crimes.

The Government of Brazil extended practical, effective support to US counterterrorism efforts in 2002. Authorities have been cooperative, following up on leads provided by the US Government on terrorist suspects.

A Sao Paulo judge sentenced three Chileans, two Colombians, and one Argentine to 16 years in prison for kidnapping a Brazilian advertising executive. A well-known terrorist and former high-ranking member of the largely defunct Manuel Rodriquez Patriotic Front (Chile), Mauricio Hernandez Norambuena, was among those sentenced.

The Brazilian Federal Police in 2002 arrested individuals with alleged ties to terrorist groups. In April, police arrested Egyptian Mohammed Ali Aboul-Ezz al-Mahdi Ibrahim Soliman (a.k.a. Suleiman), in the Triborder city of Foz do Iguazu. Soliman was arrested on the basis of an Egyptian Government extradition request for his alleged involvement in the 1997 al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG) attack on tourists in Luxor, Egypt, but the Brazilian Supreme Court released him on 11 September due to insufficient evidence to extradite. On 14 September, another IG suspect, Hesham al-Tarabili was arrested in Brazil at Egypt's request in connection with the Luxor attack.

In another case, authorities in June arrested Assad Ahmad Barakat as a result of an extradition request from Paraguay on charges of tax evasion and criminal association. Barakat is a naturalized Paraguayan of Lebanese origin who had lived in the Triborder area for approximately seven years and had become notorious for allegedly moving millions of dollars to Lebanese Hizballah. The Brazilian Supreme Court on 19 December approved the extradition request. At year's end, Barakat was still in Brazilian custody and applying for refugee status in Brazil.

In January, former President Fernando Cardoso proposed a revision of Brazil's antiterrorism laws that would define terrorism more precisely and impose stricter punishment for those involved in terrorist acts. Brazil became a party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings in 2002, making it party to nine of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. Legislation also was pending to allow wiretaps for court-approved investigations and to become a party to the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. At year's end, neither piece of legislation had yet been submitted for Congressional approval. The Brazilian Government is willing and able to monitor financial operations domestically.

Paraguay continued to be an active partner in the war on terror in 2002. Paraguayan authorities have taken numerous steps to disrupt illicit networks that supply substantial funds to Middle East terrorist groups. Authorities carried out two raids on suspected financial terror cells and pursued the extradition from Brazil of local Lebanese Hizballah leader Assad Ahmad Barakat.

Paraguay became a party to the Montreal Protocol in 2002, making it now a party to six of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. Paraguay has diligently responded to requests to block the assets of individuals or organizations designated by the United States, included on the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 Sanctions Committee's consolidated list, or designated by the European Union as terrorists or affiliates.

During 2002, the United States provided technical assistance to help the Government of Paraguay assess vulnerabilities in its financial system and to plan appropriate policy remedies.

Paraguayan authorities arrested Hizballah fundraiser Sobhi Fayad – an associate of Barakat – after he violated the terms of his conditional release from detention while awaiting trial. Because Paraguay's antiterrorism legislation still has not been passed – due to concerns of possible abuses of the law by authorities – Fayad had been imprisoned for nearly 10 months on charges of tax evasion and criminal association. He subsequently was convicted and sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.

During the year, authorities took legal action against persons and organizations in the Triborder area involved in illicit activities in an attempt to disrupt the ability of sympathizers to raise funds for terrorists. For example, Paraguay's counterterrorism Secretariat (SEPRINTE) on 27 June arrested suspected Sunni extremist Ali Nizar Dahroug, nephew of former Triborder shopkeeper and suspected al-Qaida associate Muhammad Dahroug Dahroug. Police seized counterfeit goods and receipts documenting wire transfers of large sums of money to persons in the United States and the Middle East, some payable to Muhammad Dahroug Dahroug in Lebanon.

On 25 July, SEPRINTE raided the Ciudad del Este office and apartment of alleged money launderer Fajkumar Naraindas Sabnani, who is allegedly connected to Hizballah. Police found letters detailing the sale of military assault rifles and other military weapons, receipts for large wire transfers, and what appeared to be bomb-making materials. Although police arrested three employees of Sabnani, he remained in Hong Kong.

Officials also have increased security at Asuncion airport. In November, immigration officials detained a self-proclaimed supporter of Usama Bin Ladin en route to the United States, and airline agents prevented three persons claiming to be from Taiwan bearing false passports and US visas from boarding an aircraft bound for the United States.

The Paraguayan Congress rejected antiterrorism legislation that would have defined terrorism and established criminal penalties for activities related to terrorism. Many legislators fear that a corrupt government could use the new law to target political opposition.


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