World News

Brazil arrests high ranking Qaeda operative - report

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s federal police have arrested a high-ranking al Qaeda operative in Sao Paulo and are keeping him under tight security, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The suspect is allegedly a chief of international communications for al Qaeda, according to the report in Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil’s largest daily newspaper.

The report did not give the suspect’s name or say when he was taken into custody, nor did it provide a source for the information.

The arrest was surrounded by secrecy with the federal police disguising it as part of an investigation into neo-Nazi groups in the country, Folha said. The report also said U.S. authorities were notified of the arrest.

A federal police spokesman in Sao Paulo declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman at the Justice Ministry in Brasilia, the capital.

Brazil is home to one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, with most residing in Sao Paulo and Foz do Iguacu, a bustling commercial hub on the border with Argentina and Paraguay.

The U.S. government has claimed on several occasions in recent years that Arabs in the so-called tri-border around Foz do Iguacu raise money for militant groups in the Middle East. Brazil has repeatedly denied the accusation, calling it unfounded.