Did ISIS Reach Brazil? 11 People Charged With Trying to Set Up Jihadi Cell

Prosecutors in Brazil have charged 11 people with trying to form a cell of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). It was the second ISIS-affiliated group apprehended by law enforcement in Brazil over the past two years.

The individuals did not know one another but allegedly were using the messaging app WhatsApp to discuss plans to conduct a terrorist attack in Brazil for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or Salvador. They also were allegedly trying to recruit people to join the Islamic State and travel to Syria to fight, according to court documents. They were discovered after Spain's Civil Guard gave the Brazilian police a list of phone numbers found on a Brazilian citizen arrested in Spain for belonging to the terrorist group ISIS. One of the suspects had weapons in his home.

In 2016, a Brazilian jihadi group became the first in South America to pledge allegiance to the Islamic group. In that case, the group was using the encrypted app Telegram to plan attacks during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. No ISIS-related terrorist attacks have been carried out in the country so far, however.

Brazil has the largest population of Muslims of any country in Latin America. There are estimated to be a little over 200,000 Muslims living in the country of over 200 million inhabitants.

"Islam arrived in Brazil with West African slaves, including Hausa, Malinkes and Yoruba. Muslim slaves were largely victim to the political circumstances in what is present-day Nigeria. Instability and war associated with the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate generated thousands of Hausa slaves, many of them rival soldiers," according to Harvard University's Divinity School.

"Muslim slaves were also captured during the internal wars of the Yoruba Oyo Empire to the south. However, early Brazilian Muslims were not solely representative of one or two ethnic groups, but many, including Africans who converted to Islam in Brazil," the school continued.