Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 21st 2017 Contents A10 news
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Radicalisation rate higher than Belgium
Tracking T&T terrorist fighters
leaving to participate
in terrorist activities
overseas, no clear
trend or organised
movement of people
---including from any
has been noted, say
The position was
made clear by Govern-
ment after National Se-
curity Minister Edmund
Dillon said 130 people
are involved in such
activities overseas. He
indicated that 72 adults
and 58 family members
had gone overseas on
Considering the chal-
lenges, including T&T's
heavy Muslim popula-
tion with a small radi-
cal minority---and ex-
ploitation of the religion
largely by fringe crim-
veillance has increased
and legislative curbs are
UK sociologist Si-
mon Cottee, who be-
lieves T&T tops the list
of Western countries
with the highest rates
of foreign-fighter rad-
icalisation, may have
confirmed why Dillon's
announcement has now
attracted attention from
US media, Al Jazeera,
the Atlantic and other
"As a proportion of
the total number of
foreign fighters in Syria
and Iraq, the figure 130
isn't a lot. According
to New York security
intelligence firm, So-
ufan, 27,000 to 31,000
people have travelled to
Syria/Iraq to join Isis
and other extremist
groups from at least 86
"But if T&T's pop-
ulation is only 1.3 mil-
lion, including 104,000
Muslims, then T&T
tops the list of West-
ern countries with the
highest rates of for-
eign-fighter (FTF) radi-
calisation," Cottee said.
"Experts credit Bel-
gium as one of the top
five countries with the
highest rates of FTF
radicalisation. It has a
population of 11.5 mil-
lion to 650,000 Mus-
lims with 470 FTFs.
"Compare T&T: out
of 104,000 Muslims,
this is the official figure
which I think is on the
conservative side. This
means T&T has a higher
FTF radicalisation rate
Cottee said: "Tunisia
and Saudi Arabia top the
FTF list, with totals of
7,000 and 2,500 respec-
tively. In Europe, where
more than 5,000 have
travelled to Syria, late
2015 figures are France
(1,800), Britain (760,)
Germany, (760) Bel-
Cottee didn't respond
to queries about why he
described the 130 figure
from T&T as conserv-
ative, nor did he have
comparison figures for
Suriname or Guyana,
two other regional terri-
tories with high Muslim
He said terrorism
experts have largely
ignored T&T, but Bel-
gium, France, Tunisia,
Jordan and Lebanon
have the highest rates
of foreign fighter rad-
Next is what happens
to the 130 when the Syr-
ia/Iraq "caliphate" falls,
as expected over the
next year, Cottee added.
"Many died, many
will undoubtedly. But
some will return. T&T
needs a sensible, open
what to do with return-
ees, especially women
Dillon has said agen-
cies are monitoring how
outflows may contrib-
ute to local crime. His
predecessor Gary Grif-
"In my tenure, we
confirmed 35 terrorist
fighters left, but didn't
with fighters. Intel re-
ports showed links be-
tween the 35 and peo-
ple involved in serious
crimes and gangs.
"A Special Branch re-
port warned of the as-
sassination plot against
the (then) Prime Min-
ister---the reason the
2011 State of Emergency
was called. Interesting-
ly, people alleged to be
involved were among
those who later left
Griffith believes those
who went to Syria were
more mercenaries than
"It may have been
more about money and
being misguided than
religion," he said.
Jamaat al Muslimeen
leader Yasin Abu Bakr,
whose organisation at-
tempted the failed 1990
coup, said he has always
condemned people go-
ing to Syria.
He cites poverty
"which brings in drugs
and guns. Thousands
are living on $900 (a
month). Numbers are
dwindling (with gang
wars). I conducted at
least one funeral weekly
When former US President Barack Obama was due
here for the 2009 Americas Summit the FBI vetted Imam
Nazim Mohammed of Rio Claro, an area where the largest
number of deportees on an 2013-2015 Intel list was noted.
He has always denied FTF recruitment or Middle East
travel facilitation, even when his daughter, son-in-law and
three grandchildren left for Syria in 2015. His replies on this
focused less on them and more about Islam and the US.
Doesn't Mohammed want to see his grandchildren?
"They're fine . . . but we don't believe in this life, the life
hereafter is our belief," he said.
Some south Trinidad imams say deportees may have
been financially broke, or felt alienated.
"You'll hear about persons 'going' from Rio Claro, Princes
Town, Gasparillo, central --- even UWI, and the East-West
Corridor from one particular community," one said.
Nur-e-Islam imam Sheraz Ali confirmed that five from
his mosque went overseas. One was killed.
Dominic Pitilal is also concerned about Islamphobia. He
was among five nationals detained in Venezuela in 2014
on terrorism suspicion, then convicted of espionage. He
was also one of 15 held in connection with an the alleged
2011 assassination plot against the former PM.
Pitilal said: "How many Muslim 'terrorists' were arrested
for the year's 72 murders? Making Muslims scapegoats
could well make people leave here."
Princes Town Islamic scholar Ashmead Choate, also
among the 15 held for the 2011 plot, was among those
listed in 2013/2015 intel, which stated that he departed
for Syria via Brazil in August 2015. Unconfirmed reports
state that he was killed.
Islamic front's Umar Abdullah claims Choate wanted
to "steer extremists away from violence."
Local 2011 news reports described Choate as the mas-
termind behind the 2011 assassination plot against former
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other Peoples
Partnership ministers. Police claimed there was insufficient
evidence to lay charges. Some associates said Choate
encountered financial difficulties after that, and left.
In 2011, Choate's attorney, reported to be Faris Al-Rawi,
sought the identity of a Special Branch officer and infor-
mant on whose evidence Choate was arrested. Al-Ra-
wi---who has never hidden the fact his father is Iraqi and
that he has relatives in Iraq , Syria and Lebanon---is now
Attorney General and is the one who announced Govern-
ment's anti-terrorism amendments.
SCAPEGOATS FOR RISING CRIME
The 2013-2015 intelligence docu-
ment indicated 105---men, women and
approximately 43 children--- were listed
as leaving T&T for Syria.
• Mainly men leaving since 2013; more
family groups, over 2014/2015.
• The men were in their early 20s to
50s and women in their teens to 50s.
• The 32 boys outnumbered girls.
They were ages three to 16.
• The majority of the adults were from
Rio Claro, central Trinidad, areas along
the East-West Corridor areas.
• Families and groups: Cunupia (two),
Rio Claro (nine), Enterprise (four) Edin-
burgh 500 (one), San Juan (six), Santa
Cruz (one), Longdenville (one), Trincity/
Gonzales(one), Maloney/D’Abadie (one),
Morvant (one), Claxton Bay (two).
• Routes—Trinidad /Tobago/ Frank-
furt/Turkey; Trinidad/Venezuela via
Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil,
Panama, London and Egypt; Curacao/
Manila; T&T/Brazil; T&T/Venezuela/
• Approximately 12 T&T nationals
were reportedly killed.
• Returnees include a mother and
two daughters originally connected to
mosques in Rio Claro and Enterprise,
who left in 2014 with an older male
and two boys. The females sought PP
government help to return on the basis
of alleged trafficking of the girls. The
males proceeded to Syria and two re-
portedly were killed subsequently. Two
males in their 30s from north and east
Trinidad were sent back from Turkey
in early 2016.
THOSE LEAVING OVER 2013-2015
Make savings part of your
If you wait to put money aside for when you
consistently have enough cash available at
the end of the month, you'll never have
money to put aside. Build monthly savings
into your budget now.
*Trademark of The Bank of Nova Scotia, used under licence.
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