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US commander says T&T concerned about nationals joining ISIS

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The commander of US Southern Command, Navy Admiral Kurt W Tidd, says the Trinidad and Tobago Government is concerned about the number of its nationals who have gone to fight alongside members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in recent years.

Tidd, speaking at a Pentagon briefing earlier this week, said that the US Southern Command is strengthening inter-agency cooperation as well as partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean to address evolving security threats.

Asked specifically by reporters to indicate what sort of evidence he has that either ISIS cells or networks are within his area, the senior US military official replied: “I think I would just point to a couple of the foreign fighters that have been very vocal in the past, speaking in [the] English language in the ISIS fight in Syria that originated from Trinidad and Tobago.

“We know they came, we know that the Government of Trinidad has spoken of 100 or so foreign fighters that have gone to that particular fight, so I guess that would be the best indicator that, yes, in fact there are individuals who have been radicalised, who these pernicious messages have taken root, and so it is one of concern to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

“They have focused on it and so I think it is an area we all have into consideration,” Tidd said.

The US Embassy here released the copy of the briefing yesterday to correct what it said had been the misquoting of the commander.

Last month, Trinidad and Tobago authorities placed the country on alert for a possible criminal attack during the annual carnival celebrations and the United States, Canada and Britain warned their nationals about a possible terrorist threat after the Trinidad and Tobago police confirmed they had detained several people.

The Canadian, United States and British authorities issued statements describing the events as a terrorist threat, warning nationals to be careful over the Carnival celebrations.

The British Government said that “updated information and advice on the threat from terrorism in Trinidad and Tobago… terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Trinidad and Tobago.

All of the 13 suspects were later released with no charges laid against them in connection with the terror threat.

In his briefing, Tidd said that drug traffickers, human smugglers, terrorist supporters, arms dealers and money launderers are not new to this region, “but they operate in new and surprising ways, compared to years past”.

Tidd said that new approaches were needed in dealing with these threats, as “relying solely on what worked in decades past to find and disrupt them is not enough.”

He said the criminal and extremist elements are well-financed and are increasingly sophisticated and adaptive, and that they are leveraging all means available to move “lethal narcotics, people, weapons, and dirty money into and out of Latin America and the US homeland.

“Extremist networks like [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] reach deep into our hemisphere, inspire would-be terrorists to conduct attacks in the region, or to attempt entry into the United States to do our citizens harm,” he said.

Southcom's area of responsibility in Central America, the Caribbean and South America encompasses 31 countries and 16 dependencies, and Tidd said the “long-standing ties that we enjoy with those nations should never be taken for granted.

“If we do not actively engage and work with these partners, others will,” he added.

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