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New anti-terrorism unit formed—Griffith
A new National Security Special Operations Group (NSSOG) will be geared to deal with special major issues that may occur, including terrorism activities, hostage negotiation or gang warfare, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said yesterday. He detailed the work of the “Special Ops” team, which is not yet operational, as he replied to Opposition questions from PNM senator Faris Al-Rawi in yesterday’s Senate sitting. After lengthy explanations by Griffith on the team, Al-Rawi said: “Congratulations on a very excellent initiative.”
Griffith said the NSSOG was a tactical unit geared for special initiatives. The team will comprise several arms of the law enforcement agencies: Personnel from the Coast Guard, police, prisons, immigration, customs and the army. It was approved by the National Security Council and Cabinet,he said. Griffith added: “It’s a highly-trained elite unit. This (type of) unit is seen worldwide, when you have specially trained and prepared personnel for the frontlines, something you did not have in 1990.”
He said the unit would address deficiencies that occurred in 1990 when the police and army focused on different areas. The minister was referring the attempted coup by the Jamaat al Muslimeen in July 1990. Griffith added: “We are not speaking of the Special Forces or Special Branch but this is a highly-trained group that can make clinical penetration if and when required and be prepared for any type of eventuality that might occur, including hostage negotiations, terrorism activities or gang warfare.
“This isn’t a clandestine or covert unit. It isn’t a Flying Squad. It’s very open and transparent. “These men are highly trained... this is what we need to do to deal with major criminal activity in the 21st century,” Some professional training from overseas organisations is expected from the UK’s SAS (Special Air Services) or US agencies, he added. He said the team would report to the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Defence Staff but would not have constitutional cover.
Details of the equipment, uniforms, role of personnel and chain of command were now being worked out by the top supervisors, it was stated.
Another elite unit
Griffith said another unit, the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU), had a mandate which included seeking to weed out rogue elements in the Police Service who may tip-off gangs or be manipulated by them. He said in 2013, out of 400 murders, 250 were gang-related and over 150 murders occurred in the last five years in Mango Rose, Duncan, Piccadilly, Nelson and St Paul’s Streets in Port-of-Spain.
Griffith said the CGIU’s work included suppressing and dismantling gangs, learning the effect of gang membership and reducing serious crimes and facilitating anti-gang education in schools. He said the Duncan Street facility had been fully operative since February.
Reiterating gangs would not get government contracts, he added: “They’re not Robin Hoods trying to help communities, they are only using communities.”