Peril in Peru: Islamic Terror Shifts South

Foreign AffairsIt might just be the most important terrorism case you’ve never heard of. Last fall, prosecutors in the Peruvian capital of Lima launched formal legal proceedings against a 30-year-old alleged Hezbollah operative named Mohammed Hamdar. The trial, now underway, has major regional—indeed, global—implications for the fight against international terrorism.

The case dates back to October 2014, when Peruvian police arrested the then-28-year-old Lebanese national in Lima’s Surquillo district. When he was apprehended, Hamdar had traces of suspicious chemicals on one of his hands. The same residue was also found in his apartment. He later tested positive for contact with nitroglycerine, a common ingredient in the production of explosives. Additionally, during the course of his subsequent interrogation, he admitted that he was a member of Hezbollah and that the group had asked him to conduct surveillance throughout the country. Peruvian authorities, however, believe that his writ was broader still and that Hamdar was, in fact, casing several soft targets as a prelude to a major terrorist attack—one that may have been timed to coincide with the UN Climate Change Summit, scheduled to take place in Lima later that year.

In the end, Hamdar was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism as well as the falsification of documents (he had entered Peru on a fraudulent Sierra Leonean passport). He was placed in pre-trail detention by the judge presiding over the case. He remained there until this past August when the current trial commenced. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

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