The man pictured– white beard, wearing brown, and his head wrapped in a turban — is theIranian Mohsen Rabbani. Among the seventeen people who surround him are eight Brazilians. Rabbani is considered by these people to be a teacher. The classroom is located in the city of Qom in Iran, which is sacred to Shiite Muslims. Converts to Islam, the young Brazilians traveled, with all expenses paid, to deepen their religious knowledge. Recruiting or proselytizing is common to all faiths. In this case, however, distortions are disturbing. Rabbani is not a teacher either. VEJA revealed two weeks ago that, in addition to being one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, he is also responsible for recruiting young Brazilians for courses on “religious training.” What this terrorist, named as a perpetrator of one of the bloodiest attacks in history and responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people, may be teaching the Brazilians is, at present, a major concern of the authorities. The clues uncovered so far to unravel this mystery are not encouraging.
“Professor” Rabbani is wanted for his involvement in acts of terrorism since November 9, 2006. His capture is considered so vital that Interpol has included his name in a so-called “red notice,” the select list of most wanted people in the world. The international arrest warrant against Rabbani was issued by Argentinean courts. He is considered one of the masterminds behind two attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, which killed no less than 114 people in 1992 and 1994. Rabbani was an Iranian Embassy official in Argentina’s capital and not only developed, but also perpetrated terrorist acts. With diplomatic status, he is now protected by the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and responsible for the recruitment of followers throughout Latin America (see document on pg. 68), promising religious influence and also money. Rabbani’s effort to amass followers in the poor regions of Brazil with no tradition linked to Islam is noteworthy.
“Rabbani is a serious security threat, including in Brazil. In Argentina, he spread his vision of radical, extremist, and violent Islam, which resulted in dozens of casualties during the Buenos Aires terrorist attacks. Now, based in Iran, he continues to play a significant role in the spread of extremism in Latin America,” prosecutor Alberto Nisman, head of the special unit of the Argentine prosecutors charged with investigating the attacks, said to VEJA.
The enticement of Brazilians for courses abroad has been monitored for four years by the Federal Police and the ABIN, the government’s secret service. It is Rabbani himself, with help from people he trusts, who chooses those who will travel. From 2007 until today, three groups of Brazilians have visited Iran. There are plenty of reasons for such surveillance. The course has, in fact, a strong religious content. But that is not what is of concern. Students from one of the groups of Rabbani have confided that, during these travels, they have visited the premises of the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by many countries, including the United States. Reports to which VEJA had access state that the courses of Professor Rabbani are some sort of an entryway for terrorism. According to these documents, the classes include radical preaching and training in military camps.
180 kilometers away from Recife, in rural Pernambuco, the city of Belo Jardim is the most active center for the recruitment of extremists. Of the eight selected Brazilians for the first class taken to Iran in late 2007, four were from Belo Jardim. A brother of Mohsen Rabbani, who lived in Curitiba, personally took care of recruitment. Today, this Pernambuco city of 58,000 inhabitants deserves constant attention from the Federal Police and ABIN. Among the Brazilians are lured a taxi motorcyclist, a schoolteacher, an official of the Banco do Brasil, and an English teacher — all from humble backgrounds. Erlan Batista Machado, motorcyclist, had never been on a plane until the day he flew to Sao Paulo and from there to Iran, where he studied at the invitation of Rabbani. In Iran, he gained a new name: Sayd. Approached by VEJA, Erlan said he accepted the invitation because he wanted to know more about Islam. “It was a wonderful experience,” he said. He said he never had contact with terrorists or with radical groups.
The reaction of Professor Joao Adriano Oliveira was the same when asked about the matter: “It was just a religion course.” Joao Adriano, who teaches in a public school and is learning the Arabic language, was a natural leader of the group formed in Belo Jardim. Renamed Abw Husayn, it was his responsibility to make contacts with the brother of Rabbani and with Iran. Travel expenses were paid by a foundation coordinated by Rabbani and sponsored by the Ahmadinejad government. Joao and his classmates also received small amounts of money during their period of stay in Iran. They came back with a promise from Rabbani to donate $350,000 to build a mosque in the city.
Messages exchanged between the group intercepted by Brazilian police reveal that the goal of recruiting Brazilians and traveling to Iran involves more than spiritual enlightenment through religion. The messages contain evidence that the group and its leaders in Iran have something to hide. The report had access to e-mails exchanged by Joao Adriano (Abw Husayn) and Rodrigo Jalloul, a Sao Paulo resident who went to Iran for almost four years and remained there — today, according to our investigation, he is the right arm of Rabbani for matters that relate to clandestine activities in Brazil. In a message dated April 5 last year, Joao warns Adriano Jalloul, who planned to come to Brazil for a visit, of the existence of investigations into the group: “The Federal Police got involved in an investigation into Hezbollah money laundering. We can talk more about this some time, but I believe that, as of today, we have been monitored for more than one (sic). If you come, do it in a secretive manner, at the last minute, and only let us know when you are in the region.”
The papers seized included an annex to the document illustrated in this report. They make reference to Hezbollah and reproduce fiery speeches against Israel and Jews. The students of extremism in Iran have brought along pictures of facilities maintained by the Lebanese group on Iranian soil – the itinerary included excursions to various regions of the country and visits to religious and political leaders. “It has nothing to do with terrorism. What we learned here is religion. Mr. Rabbani tells us that these accusations against him are all untrue,” said Rodrigo Jalloul to VEJA. That’s not what those responsible for surveillance of terrorist movements in Brazil think. “Our biggest fear is that militants are being recruited for future terrorist attacks here, and for that reason we must redouble our attention towards these trips, especially because we will soon have in Brazil global events like the Olympics and World Cup, which can encourage these people to commit extreme acts, “said one of the authorities dedicated to the subject.
Along with the recruits in Belo Jardim, youth from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico traveled to Iran. The group’s ties to South America go beyond recruitment. The Federal Police has information that Rabbani came to Brazil a few times in recent years. In one of those visits, almost three years ago, he used methods that could cause a diplomatic crisis. The extremist embarked in Tehran bound for Caracas, Venezuela. From there, he entered Brazil illegally. Operated by Iran’s state airline, the Tehran-Caracas flight was called “Aeroterror” by intelligence officials for allegedly facilitating the access of terrorist suspects to South America. The Venezuelan government shields passenger lists from Interpol on that flight. Professor Rabbani’s movements were being monitored. The idea was to detain him in Brazil. Notified, the Federal Police set up an operation, but the order to execute this operation took a while, due to a complicated discussion about the political implications. Once again, the extremist escaped.
Source: InterAmerican Security Watch & Veja (Brazil)
Original article in Portuguese here.