Terrorist sanctuary in South America? Tales from the "Triple Border" (Hernan Etchaleco on investigations carried on by CNN and ANSA)

The triple border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil has been constantly pointed out by the CIA as a terrorist activity focus after the September attacks in USA. Since then, American intelligence services have co-operated with the local authorities to carry on investigations to detect illegal activities in the area.

The permeable cross border between the three countries hosts one of the most active black markets in the world and it is now suspected of providing refuge to several Middle East terrorist organizations. Specially, US services remarked possible presence of Iranian activists, as well as Osama bin Laden adherents.

The commercial area of Ciudad del Este, in the Paraguayan side of Parana River, is plenty of stores and shops, most of them owned by Arab immigrants. Local authorities and international intelligence services expressed concern as they can be used as a base of Islamic extremists operating in the region. On the other side of the River, in Foz do Iguaзu, Brazil, two mosques are suspected of hosting terrorist activities.

One of those shop owners, Asad Ahmad Barakat, has been appointed by investigators as the local agent of Hezbollah and others, as contacts for different groups, such as the Egyptians El Gamaat al Islamiyad and Islamic Jihad, well known FBI targets. Barakat, blamed of being part in the attack to the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, assured: "I am only a Hezbollah supporter. I send 400 dollars, annually, to their headquarters in Lebanon to help war orphan children as the other 2.000 Brazilian Lebanese do."

Paraguay reported to the FBI in June 2000 that around 460 Hezbollah terrorist were living and working in the region. Argentina, blamed spiritual leaders in town are associated to Hezbollah and finance this organization through bank accounts in New York.

However, none of these suspects could be yet confirmed. The Brazilian Ministry of Justice, Jose Grigori Wednesday stated: "There are no terrorist in the Triple Border. Many internal and external interests wanted me to find a terrorist in Brazil. Unfortunately, I could not get any single one. That is good for our country". In turn, the local Arab community leaders expressed their irritation as they feel they are being persecuted only for being Arabs.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA. Ru Argentina

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