Your Sunday may not have been that great. But unless you said that Argentines trained by ISIS have been in the country and that the Security Ministry was investigating the existence of potential ISIS sleeper cells in the country, only to take it back following a pretty big controversy, you can rest assured: your Sunday was probably better than that of Security Secretary Eugenio Burzaco. Your football team losing yesterday doesn’t sound like such a big deal now, eh?
“We’ve managed to detect Argentines who have received training from ISIS. And that’s something that really worries us, because we known that they’ve been present in ‘hot zones’ of conflict, in Syria or northern Iraq. There are citizens that have gone and came back to the country or neighboring countries like Uruguay,” said Burzaco on Thursday in an extensive interview with Primera Edición, a media outlet from the province of Misiones.
The Security Secretary went on to say that “we are working to avoid this ‘sleeper cell’ phenomenon, because experience tells us that one or two people with few resources but with a lot of determination can launch a disaster, as has unfortunately happened in Europe or the United States.”
Although he later denied his ministry had concrete information about ISIS training recruits in the province of Corrientes — as had been assured by a Russian outlet weeks ago — the sole mention of having detected ISIS-trained Argentines wandering around the country raised more than a couple of alarm bells.
But what was worse than his words’ impact, is that he later had to take them back via an official news release, making it clear that he was either ignorant of the ministry’s actions or made up stuff to make himself sound better. Your call on which would be worse.
“The Ministry has not detected the presence of ISIS members nor one of it cells,” notes the news release, which then moves the spotlight from the interview and denies the Russian outlet’s report as well. “Regarding the recent reports mentioning the possible existence of ISIS members in Corrientes, we followed that line of inquiry and didn’t find anything indicating their presence in our country.”
Sources from the ministry tried to save face a bit and told La Nación that what Burzaco was talking about is a hypothesis currently being worked on by an anti-terrorist unit: “among the hypothesis they are investigating the potential presence of the [Islamic State] in Corrientes and the ties between Argentines who were in the Middle East and could have gotten in touch with IS cells before returning to the country.” Well, when they say it like that, it sounds less like “ISIS is here” than saying “ISIS is here.”
What the Ministry didn’t deny, however, is that there are in fact Argentines who have received training from the IS, as was revealed by a report from American intelligence institute Soufan Group. The big difference, though, lies in the not very insignificant question of whether they’re here, which they aren’t.
“From the Security Ministry we want to convey peace of mind to the citizenry,” notes the Security Ministry press release. Seems like at least when it coms to ISIS presence, there was no reason to have that peace of mind altered with from the beginning.