The Rio Olympics were shaken by a bomb blast which occurred close to the finish line of the men’s cycling road race on Saturday. But, according to USA Today, it was a controlled blast of an unattended bag. The blast happened about 70 meters from the finish line.
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The area was barricaded by military police, but there were no moves to evacuate people, USA Today reports.
Rio de Janeiro has been plagued with bomb scares in the weeks leading up to the start of the Olympics. Recently, part of the high-end neighborhood Leblon was temporarily shut down after a doorman reported a strange package had been left in front of a building. When the bomb squad investigated, it turned out that it was just a bag of clothing.
Reuters reports that this isn’t the first time that an unattended bag has been detonated at the Rio Olympics. This also happened during the opening ceremony on Friday.
According to Reuters, the official public security spokesperson confirmed that a bag was blown up on Saturday and said that it most likely belonged to a homeless man. But security protocol mandates that any bag left unattended must be destroyed. The small controlled blast happened at about 1:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m. EDT), the spokesperson added.
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Security forces are understandably on high alert as Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Olympics.
In the last month, Brazilian police have arrested 12 people with suspected links to the Islamic State, Reuters reports. According to the Daily Mail, in November last year, Maxime Hauchard, a French man who is known as an executioner in Islamic State propaganda videos tweeted: “Brazil, you are our next target.” The tweet has since been deleted.
In May of this year, Brazil’s counter-terrorism chief said that the Rio Olympics faced a “credible threat” of a terrorist attack from ISIS. He added that the threat against the Olympics had intensified after recent terrorist attacks and an increase in the number of Brazilian nationals who identify with the Islamic State’s cause.
The Heavy reports that in June, the Islamic State launched a Portuguese Telegram channel to spread their propaganda in Brazil’s national language. Site Intel, a terrorist watchdog group, adds that there have been direct calls for jihadist attacks at the Olympics in Rio on this channel.
One of them encourages ISIS supporters to act as “lone wolves” since there will be “targets from all the countries in war with us representing their countries.” There were also 17 suggestions for attacks which include singling out “American/UK/French/Israeli athletes and visitors” and “big government officials, ambassadors, chief guests for Combatant enemy countries.” As for methods of attack, “poisons or medicines…on target’s foods, drinks,” or “toy drones with small explosives,” were suggested. There was also advice on procuring weapons from Rio’s favelas and border with Paraguay. Even the Palestinian attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics was invoked as an inspiration.
In order to prevent a potential attack, 88,000 security personnel have been deployed to protect visitors and athletes at the Rio Olympics, Politico reports. But there are fears that this will not be enough. According to Politico, there’s a notable lack of coordination between the various security agencies responsible for public safety at the Olympic Games. This could prove devastating to their counter-terrorism efforts.
“We lack structure. We don’t even have a single national register to be able to identify criminals quickly,” Paulo Storani, former captain of the Special Operations Battalion of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
“State and federal institutions do not communicate. We are missing a joint policy, and drugs and weapons come here in profusion, through porous borders, both maritime and terrestrial, exacerbating the problem.”
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