Brazil suspect in Hezbollah bust says was recruited 'to kill and kidnap'

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A person facing terrorism charges in Brazil this week told Federal Police of a trip to Beirut in April to meet with someone believed to be a Hezbollah leader recruiting "people able to kill and kidnap," according to testimony seen by Reuters.

Brazil arrested two people on Wednesday in an operation to break up a suspected Hezbollah cell allegedly planning attacks on Jewish targets in Brazil. Israel's Mossad spy agency said in a highly unusual statement later that day that it helped Brazil to foil an attack, adding to growing tensions between Brasilia and the Israeli government.

Brazil's Federal Police declined to answer questions about the testimony seen by Reuters.

The heavily redacted statement to police did not include the suspect's name or other key information.

The suspect, who declined to have a lawyer present during interrogation, told police of taking a trip to Beirut in April, apparently arranged with the help of someone with a Paraguayan cell phone number.

Although the redacted testimony did not include details of the invitation, the suspect believed it was a recruiting effort by a terrorist organization and said they declined to join after learning it was engaged in "not clean activity."

The suspect said based on internet research on returning to Brazil that they believed the organization was Hezbollah.

Ahead of the trip, the suspect said they met someone in Sao Paulo who provided $400 in cash and 200 reais ($40) for the trip, during which flights and hotels were covered. On the trip, the suspect described receiving an additional $600 and an offer to acquire a taxi "to work collecting people's information."

($1 = 4.9120 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and Bill Berkrot)