RIO DE JANEIRO - The Brazilian man arrested today in Rio de Janeiro and accused of being linked to terrorist groups, traveled to Syria to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), Brazil's Justice Minister, Alexandre de Moraes confirmed.
The latest arrest over alleged links with terrorism happened just eight days ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It followed another twelve arrests last week as part of investigations into the alleged activity of planning terrorist attacks during the Rio Summer Olympic games.
According to de Moraes, Chaer Kalaoun, 34, a Brazilian Muslim of Lebanese descent, was detained last Thursday in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro and was under police custody for his alleged contacts with terrorist groups since 2014, when Brazil hosted the soccer World Cup.
"He was arrested because he was involved with terrorist groups back as far as the World Cup in Brazil. Since then we were monitoring him. He left Brazil, he went to Syria and returned to Brazil and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State," De Moraes told reporters.
According to media reports, the accused published pictures, which appear to show him posing with a rifle in his hands and next to suspected extremist militants during his trip to Lebanon in 2013.
The minister said his arrest was now applied because of the need for interrogation and further investigation.
He added that the arrests in recent days were made possible by the new anti-terrorism law in Brazil, which came into force two months ago, a law that grants more powers to authorities to prevent acts of terrorism.
"Before this law, we were unable to request the arrest of someone for preparing possible terrorist acts. We had to wait for them to do something," he said.
Kalaoun is charged with alleged ties to Islamic State and for supporting and defending the recent violent acts of IS in conversations on social networks.
Last week, the Ministry of Justice of Brazil reported the arrest of a dozen Brazilians, who were accused of having formed an "amateurish" and "disorganized" potential terrorist "cell."
According to the authorities, these people exchanged messages, praising the Islamic State, on social media and even sought to acquire weapons through illegal vendors in Paraguay.