Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Plot by Cuban jihadist to kill US diplomats halted

Published:Friday | March 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Police escort Cuban suspect Raul Gutierrez to court where a judge will rule on prosecutors’ request that he be held on terrorism and conspiracy charges in Bogotá, Colombia, yesterday.

BOGOTA (AP):

Police in Colombia have arrested a Cuban man suspected of plotting to kill American diplomats in the name of the Islamic State.

The suspect, Raul Gutierrez, arrived yesterday in handcuffs to a Bogota courtroom where a judge ordered him held without jail on terrorism and conspiracy charges. He was arrested earlier in the week in the western city of Pereira in a coordinated investigation involving police in Spain and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Authorities said that they had intercepted communications from late February in which Gutierrez allegedly discussed plans to make and detonate a home-made explosive in a restaurant in Bogota where he had sought work as a dishwasher and which was frequented by US diplomats. In another message sent over the Telegram instant messaging service, he also allegedly expressed a willingness to blow himself up for Allah and ISIS.

 

SEIZED EVIDENCE

 

General Jorge Nieto, head of Colombia's police, declined to discuss the evidence in the case in detail except to say that a number of electronic devices were seized that lend credence to the hypothesis that he was planning a terrorist attack. Gutierrez pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Wednesday.

Gutierrez had been expelled from Colombia twice before.

In 2015, he entered the country legally on a visa with the aim of eventually making his way to the US, a Colombian official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the case on the record. Authorities later discovered that he had been issued the visa based on false statements and proceeded to deport him to Cuba, the official said.

But he returned in 2016, entering the country illegally by land from neighbouring Ecuador, which doesn't require Cubans to have visas like Colombia and many other nations do. Authorities caught up with Gutierrez in Pereira, and in 2017 he was expelled again. He is believed to have returned to Colombia a third time at the start of the year.