Tags: conway | islamic | latin | america

Conway: Islamic Terror Grows in Latin America

Wednesday, 23 Dec 2009 03:52 PM

By John Rossomando

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Most Americans usually do not think of Latin America in terms of Islamic terrorism, but counterterrorism expert and former FBI Special Agent James Conway tells Newsmax TV’s Kathleen Walter the region could be the nation’s “Achilles' Heel” in its struggle against terrorism.

In recent years, these groups have established bases of operations throughout Latin America, which they have used to move people and materials.

See Video: Terrorism expert James Conway talks about the Islamic terror threat in Latin America - Click Here Now

“There is a growing presence of Islamic activism and fundraising in Latin America,” Conway told Newsmax. “There is a significant presence of human-trafficking organizations that terror cells have and could exploit for movement of people and materials into the United States, and that should be of a major concern to us from a national-security perspective.”

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Indigenous Latin American terror groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Zapatistas might not pose an immediate threat to the United States, but Conway told Newsmax Hizbullah and al-Qaida do.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Hizbullah killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. It also holds responsibility for countless bombings, kidnapping and murders around the world dating back to its founding in 1982, most notable being the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing that killed that killed 299 servicemen.

Hizbullah possesses the most sophisticated structure of any single terrorist group worldwide and receives funding to the tune of $100 million annually from its Iranian and Syrian backers. Its presence in Latin America has increased considerably in recent years.

“The specific Hizbullah targeting of the . . . Jewish community center in Buenos Ares back in the 1990s really brought to the forefront the presence of Hizbullah in Latin America and its threat to Western targets including the United States,” Conway said.

Conway says Mexico; South America’s virtually lawless Tri-border area where Parguay, Brazil and Argentina come together; and Central America have become areas of particular concern for Islamic terrorist activity.

Hizbullah has taken advantage of the presence of approximately 25,000 people of Middle Eastern ancestry in the Tri-border area to establish a base for fundraising and for the counterfeiting of everything from money to clothing and DVDs, Conway told Walter.

It has reportedly raised over $100 million due to its activities in this region.

And Iran’s growing diplomatic influence over the leftist regimes in places such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Honduras raise concerns Hizbullah could gain a stronger foothold.

“In my opinion, where you have Iranian diplomatic presence, you have the presence of Hizbullah,” Conway said. “And for that reason I’m concerned.”

The terror group also has a presence inside the United States, which has been evidenced by the suppression of Hizbullah cells in Charlotte, N.C., in the Midwest.

“Hizbullah is multifunctional; it doesn’t just conduct fundraising,” he said. “It also is involved in logistics, targeting, target assessment, collection of support materials ─ whether it be cloned cellular telephones, explosive and so forth and so on,” he said.

Iran’s increasing saber-rattling over its nuclear program gives Conway pause because it could lead the Iranian regime to use surrogates such as Hizbullah against the United States and its allies.

This factor, Conway says, raises concerns over border security, which he considers a major national-security issue.

“The way we accomplish this is through bilateral co-operations as FBI agents and other members of the intelligence community do,” Conway said. “We work bilateral operations with our host government partners, whether it be Brazil, Chile, Argentina, or in . . . Mexico."

“We work right alongside, shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners in those countries; it has to be a bilateral operation. FBI agents can’t go overseas and run around unilaterally and work counterterrorism issues.”

Conway worries the growing instability in Mexico with regard to the Mexican government’s war with the drug cartels could hamper its ability to simultaneously respond to threats from Hizbullah and al-Qaida in cooperation with the United States.

“The challenges are there,” he said. “Counterterrorism operations are hard operations. It’s difficult for a variety of reasons just because of the modus operendi of terrorist groups, the fact that it’s very difficult to develop a good asset base inside terrorist organizations.

“Unlike criminal organizations, it’s a much harder to develop undercover operations and so forth.”

He says these factors complicate investigators’ work, but he says the FBI has done an outstanding job under the circumstances foiling potential terrorist attacks. And much of this has gone unnoticed by most Americans.

See Video: Terrorism expert James Conway talks about the Islamic terror threat in Latin America - Click Here Now

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