Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced last week that his country has apprehended and deported nearly 100 ISIS-linked operatives. His claim comes as a caravan of Honduran migrants that has grown to 4,000 strong moves through the country en route to the U.S.
What are the details?
According to Todd Bensman of the Center for Immigration Studies, Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre quoted Morales as saying that his administration had captured “close to 100 people completely linked to terrorist issues, with ISIS, and that not only have we arrested them within our territory, but they have been deported to their countries of origin.”
Judicial Watch reported that Guatemala’s head of intelligence claimed that “several of the terrorists were Syrians caught with fake documents” and that Morales said the country had also taken more than 1,000 gang members into custody, including members of MS-13.
Morales made the remarks at the Oct. 11 Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America, which was attended by several senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.
“Why should Americans care about this?” Judicial Watch wrote. “[Because] a caravan of Central American migrants is making its way north” toward the U.S. boarder.
Judicial Watch said, “Guatemala has long been known as a major smuggling corridor for foreigners from African and Asian countries making their way to into the U.S.,” adding that “this makes ISIS terrorists operating in Guatemala incredibly alarming.”
NBC News reported Wednesday that a caravan of migrants fleeing Honduras for the U.S. had reached Guatemala and swelled to 4,000. In preparation for the group’s advance, the Mexican government deployed 500 federal police officers to guard the country’s southern border, which it shares with Guatemala.
On Friday, CNN‘s Bill Weir reported that the caravan had reached the Mexican border, trying to gain passage.
“There are children in this crowd,” Weir said. “This is utter chaos at the moment. You’ve got people with Honduran flags climbing the fences. Now we’re being pushed back.”
Is there any truth to the Islamic State claims?
Bensman suggested a “healthy skepticism” of Morales’ claims is warranted, as the Guatemalan president has been dogged by accusations of corruption and is currently seeking $15 billion in security assistance from the U.S.
Bensman also quoted a Guatemalan reporter who told him in an email:
All of the journalists down here believe that this is bulls**t, and Morales is just trying to look good to Pence, Trump, and the U.S., but there hasn’t been any reporting or news regarding this issue in Guatemala. Since most of us cover the interior ministry and the police, and they always make a big show whenever they capture someone, we think it’s bulls**t.