October 9, 2008
MIAMI (AP) — There is real danger that Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaida and Hezbollah could form alliances with wealthy and powerful Latin American drug lords to launch new terrorist attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Extremist group operatives have already been identified in several Latin American countries, mostly involved in fundraising and finding logistical support. But Charles Allen, chief of intelligence analysis at the Homeland Security Department, said they could use well-established smuggling routes and drug profits to bring people or even weapons of mass destruction to the U.S.
“The presence of these people in the region leaves open the possibility that they will attempt to attack the United States,” said Allen, a veteran CIA analyst. “The threats in this hemisphere are real. We cannot ignore them.”
Added U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Michael Braun: “It is not in our interest to let that potpourri of scum to come together.”
Their comments came at a two-day conference on the illegal drug threat in the Americas hosted by the U.S. Southern Command and the 35,000-member AFCEA International, a trade group for communications, intelligence and national security companies.
Much as the Taliban tapped Afghanistan’s heroin for money, U.S. officials say the vast profits available from Latin American cocaine could provide al-Qaida and others with a ready source of income. The rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has long used drug money to pay for weapons, supplies and operations — and is also designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.