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Professor cites Islamic State capability in Brazil as only barrier to Olympic attack

Brazil fans watch their women's team of Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk defeat the Czech Republic in a pool play match on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, on Copacabana, in the beach volleyball arena, during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

BRIAN CASSELLA, CHICAGO TRIBUNE/TNS

By JORDAN GRAHAM | Boston Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 7, 2016

The only obstacle preventing Islamic State terrorists from pulling off a highly prized attack on the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro would be the group’s inability to do so in Brazil, even as frequent attacks in Europe continue, experts say.

"ISIS certainly wants to attack the Olympics. ISIS will attack the Olympics if the group can," said Max Abrahms, a Northeastern University professor and terrorism expert. "So, the only thing that would stop ISIS from attacking the Olympics would be its inability to do so (in Brazil)."

There have already been a handful of bomb scares in the city over the past two months. A few blocks of the high-end neighborhood of Leblon were shut down two weeks ago when a doorman reported a suspicious package in front of a building. A bomb squad unit that responded found the sports bag only contained clothes.

A small blast shook the area near the finish line of the men’s cycling road race with about 43 miles to go yesterday. A police officer told The Associated Press the blast was a controlled explosion of a suspicious package. No one was injured, and the event went on unaffected.

ISIS “is under pressure in Iraq and Syria and is likely to strike out,” said Colin Clarke, a security expert at RAND Corporation. “The risk of terrorism in a place like Latin America versus the Middle East or Europe is obviously less, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

Also yesterday, a bullet that flew through the roof of a media tent at the Olympic Equestrian Center was found to be just “an unfortunate incident,” Brazilian military and police said.

The scare came during the lunch break at the evening dressage on the first day of the games when a military-looking bullet pierced the roof of the tent and landed on the floor. The competition was not disrupted and nobody was hurt.

The incidents at the Olympics came hours after two female officers were attacked and wounded by a man wielding a machete and shouting “Allahu Akhbar” outside the main police station in the Belgian city of Charleroi, officials said.

The assailant was shot by a third officer and later died of his wounds, authorities said. The attacker’s identity and motive were not immediately known, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, but added the “first indications” suggested it was an act of terrorism.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

©2016 the Boston Herald
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