Pentagon officials have confirmed human smuggling rings in Latin America are attempting to sneak al-Qaida operatives into the U.S., information first reported in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin more than a year ago.
In a Defense Department briefing Friday about National Guardsman Ryan Anderson, suspected of trying to give al-Qaida information about U.S. capabilities and weaponry, reporters were also told to expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to provide details on two other subjects: Guantanamo Bay prisoners freed only to rejoin al-Qaida and Taliban cells in Afghanistan and al-Qaida's Latin America connection.
No further announcements were forthcoming from the Pentagon, prompting some sources to wonder whether the administration was conflicted over this news - given President Bush's political problems with his illegal-alien amnesty program.
Before the U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq last year, the U.S. State Department offered congressional testimony that both al-Qaida and the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah were taking firm hold in "America's backyard."
Mark F. Wong, the State Department's acting coordinator for counterterrorism, told the House International Relations Committee about the threat posed by both groups in Latin America.
Yet, then the matter seems to have been dropped - perhaps for diplomatic reasons, perhaps for political reasons.
But last November, G2 Bulletin reported authorities in Silvio Pettirosi International Airport in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital, reported the arrival of a growing number of visitors carrying European passports, but undoubtedly appearing to be more Middle Eastern than anything else.
Some of these "Europeans" could not even speak the language of their so-called mother land.
A police officer in touch with a Middle Eastern embassy said he had conducted a review trailing back on the moves of a certain Belgian, with a distinct Vallon name. This Belgian's trip began in Cairo on Egypt Air 203 en route to Milan. From there he continued to London on board a BA 209 flight, which continued to Miami where he boarded American flight 995 to Asuncion.
Details of the suspicious Vallon were passed on to the Paraguayan authorities and then to a number of western embassies and representatives of intelligence agencies. This case, described to G2B by a western diplomat, is a rare example. Due to the devious intricacy of such a trip the Paraguayan authorities cannot be absolutely sure how many of these "Europeans," speaking fluent Arabic, but just basic French, Spanish or English, had entered the country during the last few weeks. However, there was very little doubt most of these visitors went on to find their way to the triple border region where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. This region, often described as a lawless area, is nicknamed by some intelligence station agents as "The Muslim Triangle meeting zone."
Intelligence experts have been warning since the late 1990s they had noticed a tendency among Islamic terrorists to operate from Paraguay, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, with a territory slightly smaller than California, and with geographic extremes perfect for hiding illegal activities. Information surrounding such activities arrived in the U.S. before 9/11 but failed to sound any alarms. Today dealing with Islamic terrorism in Latin America is still not considered to be of high importance and often even politically incorrect.
G2 Bulletin reported last fall the terrorists using Argentina are organized in active cells around the country with safe houses in neighboring Paraguay. An Argentinean document seen by G2B describes part of the drug-smuggling trail, as well as that of weapons and people. These elaborate trails run through a web of border crossings pointing also to the complex cooperation between various "smuggling experts." These belong to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida, joining forces with local drug lords, developing and oiling their smuggling mechanism all the way to Mexico aiming ultimately to hit the U.S.
The Argentinean intelligence service assessment, privy among others, to European and Middle Eastern agencies, has reached a significant and grave conclusion, according to G2 Bulletin. It claims since 9/11 and the partial success in the war against terrorism, mainly in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia, the jihadi pendulum is tilting more and more toward South America. The reason terrorist cells in Paraguay, whether active or dormant, can continue to grow and flourish, is because of widespread corruption in South America.
Immigration is easy. There is a long tradition of harboring criminals. Even Nazi war criminals were welcomed for years.
The lawlessness and disorder in Paraguay, enabled operatives of such terrorist groups as al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas to feel safe, even in the heart of Asuncion. These organizations, and probably more, turned Paraguay into a logistical base, as one local journalist told G2 Bulletin: "It's easy. At this stage our country is not engulfed in a civil war or guerrilla campaign and, therefore, security forces are more prone to financial kickbacks."
At this stage, G2 Bulletin sources say, the growing danger is that of militant Islam penetrating Mexico, a country with an increasing Muslim community, including Muslim converts. Some of them have ties to the Mexican community and to illegal immigrants' smugglers operating in American states bordering Mexico, especially those with connections in the greater Los Angeles area and other major cities.
Anti-terrorism experts say extremist cells tied to Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida network are operating in Argentina, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay. Although cooperation between al-Qaida and Hezbollah has been known for some time, the two groups have formed a much closer relationship since al-Qaida was evicted from its base in Afghanistan, according to G2 Bulletin.
Representatives of the two groups recently met in Lebanon, Paraguay and an unidentified African country.
Both al-Qaida and Hezbollah were active in the common border area of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, according to an earlier statement of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in hearings before the Foreign Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, cited in a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Further to the south in Latin America, Hezbollah and the terrorist Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) are operating in the tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The suspected activities of these groups include counterfeiting U.S. currency and drug smuggling, with the area in which they function described as a "haven for Islamic extremists" by the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Asa Hutchinson, in testimony before the House International Relations Committee.
Egyptian intelligence experts active in combating Muslim militancy in Egypt and aware of the role of Egyptian militants in the ranks of al-Qaida and the Taliban, told G2 Bulletin last year that Islamic terrorists shifted their interest from training pilots in the U.S. to schools in South America, where they can study and train practically without any security agencies on their heels.
In addition, another source al-Qaida also found Latin America to be more hospitable as an environment to build laboratories to manufacture non-conventional weapon systems, primarily biological agents, and for testing their effectiveness.
More recently, al-Qaida has become deeply involved in cocaine and heroine trafficking, arms and uranium smuggling, counterfeiting CDs and DVDs and money-laundering activities in the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The tri-border region is known as the heart of Islamic activity in Latin America.
Of growing concern to some U.S. officials is the way the terrorists south of the border might use lax immigration standards to slip into the U.S.
Some 6 million people of Muslim descent live in Latin America and there are reports that many indigenous people are converting to Islam.
The terrorists even get some official support in Latin America, according to some sources. As WorldNetDaily reported, a Venezuelan military defector claims President Hugo Chavez developed ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida - even providing it with $1 million in cash after Sept. 11, 2001.
Air Force Maj. Juan Diaz Castillo, who was Chavez's pilot, told WorldNetDaily through an interpreter that "the American people should awaken and be aware of the enemy they have just three hours' flight from the United States."
Diaz said he was part of an operation in which Chavez gave $1 million to al-Qaida for relocation costs, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.