- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2011

TERRORISTS IN CHILE

Muslim extremists linked to Hezbollah and al Qaeda are operating in Chile, where they provide “significant” financial aid to the Arab terrorist groups, according to the U.S. Embassy in Santiago.

“These fundamentalists who are known to be associated with Hezbollah are increasing their presence and activity in Chile,” says a 2006 diplomatic cable from Craig Kelly, U.S. ambassador to Chile from 2004 to 2007.

“Additionally, there are indications that there may be Pakistani extremists and others sympathetic to al Qaeda.”

Mr. Kelly described a “radical fundamentalist presence” in the northern port city of Iquique and “to a lesser degree” in the capital, Santiago.

“There is substantial information that indicates that significant financial fund-raising for Hezbollah is taking place in northern Chile within the Muslim community,” he wrote in the cable published this week by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Mr. Kelly added that the Islamic Center in Santiago “certainly provides financial support” for terrorists and that the U.S. and Chilean governments are working together to “monitor” the center and “take action against them, if required.”

The ambassador said authorities had no information that the extremists were involved in any other terrorist activity beyond fundraising. However, he added that “explosives are easy to obtain” in Chile because of extensive mining operations.

Al Qaeda and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah are allied with Iran, which has been extending its influence in Latin America for several years.

Jamie Daremblum, a former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, has been tracking the growing relationship between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

They are trying to “fill Latin America with potential nests of terrorism,” said Mr. Daremblum, now director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

DIPLOMATIC FLAP

Turkish officials this week complained that the new U.S. ambassador is interfering in domestic affairs by criticizing the arrests of prominent journalists accused of supporting a murky plot to overthrow the government, which critics say is too influenced by Islamic fundamentalism.

“We do not find it right for an ambassador to make judgments over an ongoing investigation,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Nepal. “This is not an issue of press freedom. There are other issues involved.”

Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. on Tuesday questioned Turkey’s commitment to freedom of the press after police arrested Soner Yalcin, owner of the Oda TV website, and three of his reporters. Today’s Zaman, a newspaper considered close to the ruling Justice and Development Party, described Mr. Yalcin’s website as “anti-government.”

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