Trinidad Source of Young Recruits to ISIS

Trinidad and Tobago is measured as 332 kilometres from Barbados. Given the rights of Caricom citizens to freedom of movement under the RTOC we need to put our gloves on in response to the news that Trinidad is a source of recruits for ISIS.

BU shares the following article from the New York Times because it should be of high interest to all Barbadians and Caribbean citizens.

Trying to Stanch Trinidad’s Flow of Young Recruits to ISIS



Yasin Abu Bakr, second from right, speaking with other Muslims at his mosque in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Credit Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times

ENTERPRISE, Trinidad and Tobago — By the time he was 17, Fahyim Sabur had memorized the Quran.

At 23, he was shunning calypso parties and giving private Arabic lessons in his neighborhood here in Enterprise, about 20 miles south of Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

A year later, he was on the battlefield in Syria, where he died fighting for the Islamic State.

“He never spoke to me about it,” said his father, Abdus Sabur, 56, who sells meat patties on the street. “National Security called me one day and told me, ‘Your son is dead.’ ”

Law enforcement officials in Trinidad and Tobago, a small Caribbean island nation off the coast of Venezuela, are scrambling to close a pipeline that has sent a steady stream of young Muslims to Syria, where they have taken up arms for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

American officials worry about having a breeding ground for extremists so close to the United States, fearing that Trinidadian fighters could return from the Middle East and attack American diplomatic and oil installations in Trinidad, or even take a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Miami.

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President Trump spoke by telephone over the weekend with Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago about terrorism and other security challenges, including foreign fighters, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said.

Trinidad has a history of Islamist extremism — a radical Muslim group was responsible for a failed coup in 1990 that lasted six days, and in 2012 a Trinidadian man was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a plot to blow up Kennedy International Airport. Muslims make up only about 6 percent of the population, and the combatants often come from the margins of society, some of them on the run from criminal charges.

They saw few opportunities in an oil-rich nation whose economy has declined with the price of petroleum, experts say. Some were gang members who either converted or were radicalized in prison, while others have been swayed by local imams who studied in the Middle East, according to Muslim leaders and American officials.

The young men found solace in radical Islamist websites and social media.

And in the call to jihad.

In contrast to the laws of many countries, it is not illegal in Trinidad to join the so-called caliphate, though the government wants to change that. One hundred to 130 people have made the trip to Syria from Trinidad, which has a population of 1.3 million, according to a former United States ambassador, John L. Estrada, and Trinidad’s minister of national security, Edmund Dillon.

By comparison, about 250 citizens of the United States, a country with 240 times the population, had joined the extremists or attempted to travel to Syria by late 2015, according to a House Homeland Security Committee report.

Per capita, Trinidad has the greatest number of foreign fighters from the Western Hemisphere who have joined the Islamic State, said Mr. Estrada, who stepped down after the inauguration of President Trump last month.

“Trinidadians do very well with ISIL,” Mr. Estrada said. “They are high up in the ranks, they are very respected and they are English-speaking. ISIL have used them for propaganda to spread their message through the Caribbean.”

Much of the information about the identities of those who went abroad comes from American intelligence sources, although local imams and Islamic leaders all said they knew several people, including women, who had left.

“I know whole families that went,” said Imtiaz Mohammed, president of the Islamic Missionaries Guild, which does charity work in Trinidad and the Middle East.



Umar Abdullah, an Islamic activist in Trinidad and Tobago, at home with his daughter. Credit Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times

Juan S. Gonzalez, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the bulk of Islamic State fighters from Latin America originated in Trinidad and Tobago. The numbers underscore a risk of lone-wolf attacks in the region, he added.

“As the United States continues to corner ISIS and defeat them, a lot of these guys aren’t going to feel they have safe quarters,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Is the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, prepared for these guys to return back to their countries? This is a real vulnerability.”

He noted that people in the Caribbean enjoyed visa-free travel throughout the islands, which makes it fairly easy to travel to the Bahamas, and from there make a “short jump” to South Florida.

The United States, which encouraged Trinidad to tighten its laws, has hosted meetings with Muslim leaders at the embassy in Port of Spain, and paid for several to attend anti-extremism workshops in the United States.

Mr. Sabur, the young radical from Enterprise, is one of a handful of Trinidadians known to have died in Syria. Others include Shawn Parson, who appeared in an Islamic State recruiting video. He was targeted by an F.B.I. program that, with the cooperation of the military, sought to eliminate the group’s social media figures, often with drone strikes.

Last summer, Shane Crawford, also known as Abu Sa’d at-Trinidadi, perhaps Trinidad’s best-known Islamic State recruit, was prominently featured in an article in the group’s magazine, Dabiq, in which he called for attacks on Western embassies.

Mr. Crawford said he had been influenced by Islamic lectures and a Trinidadian Muslim leader, Ashmead Choate. Mr. Choate “attained martyrdom” in Ramadi, Iraq, the article said.

The genesis of today’s rising militancy, Mr. Crawford added in the article, can be traced to the failed 1990 coup, when a group of radical Muslims took legislators hostage in a siege of Parliament. When it was over, two dozen people were dead.

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Yasin Abu Bakr, 76, who led that uprising and has since been released from prison, said the government had created a climate where young Muslims did not feel safe or welcome in the military or civil service. “This is total discrimination and isolation against young Muslims in Trinidad,” he said in an interview.

Trinidad’s attorney general, Faris Al-Rawi, said that after the coup, wearing Muslim garb “took on a certain appeal.”

“A lot of people who were not genuinely Muslim or otherwise took on the persona to carry on their thuggery,” he added.

Mr. Al-Rawi said Mr. Crawford was believed to have died in Syria. His mother, Joan Crawford, said she had heard rumors that he had been badly wounded.

Ms. Crawford, 62, said that her son had been falsely accused of plotting to kill the Trinidadian prime minister, and that this had diminished his professional prospects, even though he ran a fish business and had experience in plumbing.

“Once you are branded a terrorist in your own country, what could you do?” said Ms. Crawford, a former Spiritual Baptist who converted to Islam after her son did. “I did cry, because I knew I would never see him again. I did not get to say goodbye.”


Haruun Ben Usuf, left, an imam in Trinidad. At least one Muslim who has joined the Islamic State has been through his mosque. He said he hadn’t known of that Muslim’s plan to join the jihadist group. Credit Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times

Efforts to combat the flow of young Muslims to overseas battlefields have been complicated by the ambivalence toward, and sometimes support for, the jihadi cause among some imams and the recruits’ parents. In an interview that began and ended with a prayer, Mr. Sabur said he had welcomed his son’s death as a martyr: “I felt elated. Speaking about it now, I am overelated.”

The Trinidadian government last week introduced a series of amendments that would criminalize membership in the Islamic State and other extremist organizations. People who traveled to certain regions would be presumed to be doing so for terrorism, and the burden to prove otherwise would be on them, Mr. Al-Rawi said.

Mr. Mohammed, of the Islamic Missionaries Guild, criticized the proposed legislation, saying groups like his that make trips to the Middle East are often engaged in charity work and could be unfairly singled out.

“You can’t just go to a court and have a judge tell you that you are guilty with no evidence, just an assumption,” he said.

Mr. Mohammed has publicly denounced the Islamic State, but noted that his own United States visa and commercial pilot’s license had been revoked after a terrorism suspect passed through his Islamic center.

A senior intelligence official in Trinidad who was not authorized to speak publicly said he worried that the proposed legislation would make people who would have left for Syria plan attacks at home instead.

He said about 15 or 20 of the Islamic State recruits spent two weeks before their trips at a mosque in Rio Claro, about 50 miles southeast of Port of Spain. There, they attended an orientation, the official said.

Umar Abdullah, an Islamic activist, said he had been among those who encouraged the would-be fighters.

Despite having made thinly veiled threats to Americans in the past, which led a cruise ship on its way to Trinidad to turn back, Mr. Abdullah has since denounced extremism, and now says Muslims must work with the United States to “change the narrative.” It would be “stupid” to try to attack the United States Embassy, he said.

“At one point in time I was a strong believer in that, and I still believe it to some extent,” Mr. Abdullah said. “But to do something like that would put the Muslim community in harm’s way. We would not be able to stand the fallout of that type of action.”

The imam in Rio Claro, Nazim Mohammed, denied running an Islamic State training program, and insisted that he operated an elementary school and a weekly food program for the poor. But he acknowledged that two of his children and five of his grandchildren were in Syria, and that the adults were believed to be involved with the Islamic State.

“Killing and murdering is not Islamic,” Nazim Mohammed, 75, said in an interview. “Our program is to help people. You know how many people have come here for help?”

He insisted that his children did not notify him of their plans, and he shrugged off the group’s influence.

“Who is ISIS?” he said. “ISIS is just a few people.”

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115 thoughts on “Trinidad Source of Young Recruits to ISIS

  1. Following in Donald Trump’s footsteps , we learn that one of Frances’ Presidential hopefuls, Marine Le Pen ,is courting Russian President Putin. What are the chances of Le Pen becoming President of France? The same as that of Donald Trump, thanks to Russia.
    On a recent visit to Moscow ,she made statements / promises over the retention of France in NATO,and of forging closer ties with Russia.
    France , like Italy, has always been a timid and cowardly nation, as was demonstrated during the second World War, when it quickly sold out to Hitlers’s marauding hordes.
    In 1966 ,at the height of the Cold War, when the invasion of western Europe was foremost in the minds of the Soviet Union’s political hierarchy and Generals, France withdrew its military from NATO, probably believing that the Soviet Union in its quest to dominate Europe , had been stopped dead in its tracks, in Berlin. And in any case, France was at the extreme western end of Europe, a long way from Berlin. And even if the Soviets had made a break through, there was the buffer effect offered by the Benelux countries of Belgium , the Netherlands and Luxembourg, plus West Germany , to give France a little breathing space. And even if the Soviet Union, succeeded, and was knocking on France’s back door, she could always resort to what she likes doing best……the business of easy Capitulation.
    Long after the fall of the Berlin Wall ,and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, France rejoined NATO in 2009, probably due to the newer and more fluid threat by the Islamics.
    In spite of the fact that Putin was beaten by Chess Grand Master Kasparov, of which the latter was jailed, Putin remains very much a grand master himself. He still has ambitions of re-establishing the Soviet Union, and recovering those former Soviet Satellite countries which were lost, many of which are now part of NATO , and the European Union which is celebrating 60 years of existence today, amid much uncertainty . At the same time, Putin will continue to finish the job which the Soviet Union had set out to do, soon after the fall of Berlin in the Second World War .
    And what better strategy for Putin to employ than that old tried and tested , Divide and Rule concept, encouraging France under Le Pen , and the United States under Trump to diss NATO.
    Establishing a new Russian front at the western end of Europe, in France, and working in the opposite direction , counter to the intended route mapped out by the Soviets during in the Cold War, and with the bulk and brawn of United States Forces in Europe, out of the game,and the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) now consigned to history, this vice grip movement will allow Putin tanks and artillery to easily overcome the token resistance that will be offered by NATO Forces, and put the Soviet Union back in the fast lane on the Autobahn of rebirth.
    Today Putin has embraced Trump’s United States of America, and to some extent, France in his deathly bear hug. Which other country is next?

  2. Simple…..unlike trump, congress knows they can be fired by the voters and trump can’t fire any member of Congress, besides the Koch brpthers warned them the week before that should they pass trump’s and Ryan’s idiot bill, they would pull a half billion dollars in funding,….congress aint no fool…lol

    That bill would also have destroyed in NYC economy, trump was going to steal billions from NYC to fund NYS, the small counties around the state, so in essence he would steal from 8 million people to fund healthcare for nearly 12 million in NYS….jackass.

  3. Re the irish, english, scottish savagery, they are the poorest of the poor descended from savages in eastern europe, their minds have been twisted with hatred for centuries, many of them immigrated to the US, we now see the results o their savagery manifesting.

    …….., there was a particularly nasty one called Madison Grant, really nasty piece of work, Scottish descent, he designed the vicious immigration system the US has, he wrote a book on Eugenics that Hitler used as his bible to carry out his evil killings and experiments in Germany, he can be given full credit for the rise and success of Nazism, racism, sterilization of people he deemed inferior, by the millions, many blacks were sterilized up to the 70s in the US, lots of hatred of other people, he wanted to wipe the earth clean of people different to him….he crafted that evil…but his bloodline thankfully died with him, the earth could not handle another one of him, too much evil, too much hate…so the evil that saw milions die did not start in Germany it was created in the US by Grant and carried out in Germany.

    They are vile and carry evil in their hearts constantly, the church is the worst culprit.

  4. Pingback: Trinidad & Tobago: Tracing the Possible Root of the Crime Problem – Politics868

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