An alleged plot to attack Jews in Brazil has been foiled following the arrest of two men suspected of being linked to the Islamist group Hezbollah.
The arrests were made in São Paulo on Wednesday during what police said was an operation to “disrupt the preparation of terrorist attacks”.
Brazilian authorities added other raids were carried out across the country.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office said its spy agency Mossad worked with Brazilian law enforcement.
Brazil is home to Latin America’s second largest Jewish community.
In a statement, Brazil’s Federal Police said 11 search and seizure raids were executed in São Paulo, the capital Brasília and the state of Minas Gerais.
Recruiters face charges of involvement in a terrorist organisation and participating in preparations for terrorist acts – and could face maximum prison sentences of 15 and a half years if convicted.
Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed Shia Muslim organisation which exerts significant political influence in Lebanon and controls the country’s most powerful armed force.
Like Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it is considered a terrorist organisation by the UK, the US, Israel, Gulf Arab countries and other nations.
According to AFP news agency, Mossad said it had helped to “foil a terrorist attack in Brazil” which it added was “planned by the Hezbollah terrorist organisation, directed and financed by the Iranian regime”.
In a statement, Mossad said the planned attacks targeted “Israeli and Jewish targets in Brazil”.
“This was an extensive network that operated in additional countries,” Mossad added.
While Mossad did not name the other countries, security experts have long tracked alleged Hezbollah operations in South America’s “tri-border area” between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
“Given the backdrop of the war in Gaza… Hezbollah and the Iranian regime are continuing to operate around the world in order to attack Israeli, Jewish and Western targets,” Mossad’s statement added.
Although Brazil may seem a long way from the Middle East, the region’s conflicts have long cast a shadow over South America.
In neighbouring Argentina, which has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, Hezbollah has been blamed for the country’s deadliest terror attack – the 1994 bombing of the Amia Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.
Hezbollah and Iran have both denied any involvement. No-one has ever been brought to trial in connection with the bombing.
Both Brazil and Argentina have many citizens of Syrian or Lebanese descent, although the majority of them are Christians.
More than 100,000 Jewish people live in Brazil, while twice that number live in Argentina.
Source : BBC