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Hunt for ISIS network head

Published: 
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Carnival threat cases far from closed

Networks of the ISIS cell in T&T which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley referred to in Parliament are spread from Aranjuez, Charlieville and Enterprise to Rio Claro among other locations, a national security official has said.

They spoke on Friday night when asked by T&T Guardian to elaborate on Rowley’s earlier confirmation that there is an ISIS cell in T&T.

Rowley made the comment in response to questions from United National Congress MP Bhoe Tewarie about whether there was anything that could be considered an ISIS cell or satellite locally.

Rowley replied, “It’s common knowledge across the world that T&T citizens subscribe to some of the doctrines of ISIS and persons from T&T have travelled to areas of combat in Iraq and Syria. Many have been intercepted in Turkey and Britain, some have been returned to T&T.

“Some are in custody in foreign countries—persons who seek to join ISIS. And in fact, as ISIS has dispersed in Iraq and Syria, that doctrine has now been spread to home-bound activities and therefore we have to be particularly concerned about such persons and the monitoring of such persons is an integral part of our national security.

“... And the answer to the question is—yes.”

The matter came to the fore following police investigations into a plot to disrupt Carnival 2018 activities days before Carnival.

After days of searches and questioning people, police confirmed a total of 15 people—13 initially and two more—were detained in connection with the threat and were released between last Wednesday to Friday.

A couple detained appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate on Friday charged with possession of firearm. The man was denied bail. His wife was granted $150,000 bail. Both are scheduled to reappear in court on March 16.

Yesterday, National Security agency officials leading the investigation said probe of the threat to disrupt Carnival 2018 wasn’t closed following the release of some detainees—and won’t be closed—since more people were detained last Thursday even as some were released.

An intelligence source said the genesis of the T&T cell began around 2012 when the first wave of people began joining ISIS. Just about then, ISIS had begun burgeoning beyond its 2004 roots—buoyed by Arab Spring fallout—offering large sums of money for recruitment. The source said those from T&T who were attracted were largely persons of criminal background, some of whom adopted Muslim leanings based on radical interpretation of the religion.

While they acknowledged that a “Muslim” gang was cited recently among authorities’ gang figures, not all of those in that group had taken up ISIS’ doctrine, they added, nor have traditional Muslims in T&T.

They said the locations—which include others in south Trinidad and other parts along the East-West corridor—have been on the security radar for some time since then. They noted that police exercises, including searches, detentions and questioning of people who weren’t detained, in those areas were significant in the recent issue of the threat to disrupt Carnival. The areas also correlate to security agency monitoring of those who left to go to Syria to join the group since 2012.

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