These past few days have not been kind to Trinidad when it has to do with matters relating to international terrorism.
The week began with reports that international police hunting down men who have left their far away homelands to fight alongside ISIS fundamentalists in the Middle East have arrested four nationals of Trinidad and are moving to prosecute them accordingly.
The reports came the same week that federal officials in the U.S. reported the death in prison of veteran Trinidadian Muslin Kareem Ibrahim of cancer and heart failure.
Ibrahim along with Guyanese Russell DeFreitas, Abdul Kadir and deportee from the U.S. Abdel Nur were convicted back in 2011 in a New York court for conspiring to set fire to fuel depots near the JFK International Airport in a case that legal experts had dismissed as the mere delusional fancy of a bunch of old men but one that federal officials took seriously and prosecuted them with judicial vigor. They were arrested back in 2007 in an incident that made world headlines and because the case was so unusual as the suspects were all either elderly or middle aged, outside the usual profile of dangerous men.
The four were arrested while in Trinidad as they were attempting to sell the scheme to the local Black Muslimeen community, which had had several spectacular run-ins with the state including a bloody July 1990 attempted coup that claimed more than 20 lives, arson attacks in the capital, gunshot wounds to then Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson and a daring daylight attack in parliament and other state facilities.
Ibrahim, 70, this week lost his prolonged battled with cancer and died at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri. He and all the others got life prison sentences.
He succumbed just weeks after the attorney general’s office in Trinidad had invoked aspects of an anti terrorism act to allow authorities to seize Ibrahim’s home and other assets. Few assets were found.
The act empowers authorities to confiscate assets of anyone convicted locally or abroad on terrorism related charges.
In the meantime, Turkish newspapers are reporting the arrest of four T&T nationals among a group of 961 fighters captured by security forces in recent weeks.
The move comes as officials in Trinidad are debating whether they can legally debar nationals who fight with ISIS and other terror organizations to legally return home without hindrance.
The island’s national security ministry says that more than 100 Trinidadians have left the country to fight in the Middle East and this is presenting security nightmares for officials, especially if many decide to return home.
Trinidad is the only country in the hemisphere apart from the U.S. which has had to grapple with a major case of insurrection from extreme Muslim activists. Authorities there remain on alert for as there are constant verbal clashes with Muslin leaders and the ever present threat of a repeat of 1990.
Security Minister Ed Dillon recently reported that several fighters have been killed in action in the Middle East.