Brazilian police have arrested 10 people suspected of taking steps toward planning a terrorist attack as the country prepares for the 2016 Olympics, which will begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.
The suspects had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, Brazilian Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said in a news conference Thursday, but did not have any specific plan for an attack.
Though the suspects initially made contact online with Islamic State to declare loyalty, Moraes said, they did not have any ongoing communications with the militant group. They were based around the country and primarily communicated with each other electronically.
The justice minister cited “specific preparatory acts” the group made as justification for the arrests: The group had praised recent attacks in Nice, France, and Orlando, Fla.; one member made contact with someone in Paraguay about purchasing an AK-47; they discussed taking martial arts training. One member spoke of traveling abroad to meet with members of Islamic State, but could not afford it.
“At a certain point they decided that though Brazil was not part of the coalition considered an enemy of Islamic State, the arrival of foreigners during the Olympics could make the country a legitimate target,” Moraes said.
Brazil, a country with little history of terrorism or religious extremism, has been on alert for terrorist activity in advance of the Games. Authorities recently said they were monitoring roughly 100 people in the country who were suspected of sympathizing with terrorist activities.
All 10 arrested Thursday are on that list, authorities said, but their names have not been disclosed. Authorities plan to arrest two more people.
In preparation for the Olympics, Brazilian authorities tightened security at airports starting this week, leading to bottlenecks. Local police have launched a campaign asking local citizens to submit any evidence of suspicious activity.
Moraes said authorities would not wait if they suspected a terrorist plot was developing.
“No matter how insignificant it may seem, there will be a swift reaction,” he said. “We’ll act in the toughest way possible.”
Bevins is a special correspondent.
11:20 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.
This article was originally published at 8:15 a.m.