As hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors prepare to take part in Trinidad’s world class carnival celebrations, authorities there called an emergency press conference late Thursday to announce that they had foiled a massive terror plot to disrupt the annual street parade and other events.
Police spokesman Mike Jackman said authorities have “unearthed credible information of a threat to disrupt carnival activities.”
Sitting stoically while fielding questions from reporters, Assistant Superintendent Jackman stuck to the official script by saying only that “the police service will continue in collaboration with the defense force to ensure that persons enjoy carnival 2018 in a safe and secure environment.”
But even as he and government refused to provide more details, security at the United States Embassy in Port of Spain was beefed up as leaks circulated from security officials that the mission would have been the target of a terrorism attack either on Monday or Tuesday when the celebrations were being wrapped up.
For its part, the American mission stuck a statement on its own website urging its citizens to “exercise caution and increased situational awareness if they participate in carnival events.”
Jackman said security agencies were working “to combat all threats and urged members of the public to do their part by reporting any suspicious activities.”
Based on its own history in the past 40 years, the twin-island republic with Tobago takes terrorism threats seriously. In July 1990, 114 Muslim insurrectionists had staged an unsuccessful coup to topple the administration of then Prime Minister Ray Robinson. Robinson was shot in a leg and brutalized by the gunmen. He refused demands for his government to resign and was later hailed as a local hero.
Members of the heavily armed Jamaat al Muslimeen, angry with authorities about issues ranging from poverty to racial discrimination to the state of the economy, stormed the parliament while in session, the state television station and other state facilities killing more than 20 people. Large parts of commercial Port of Spain were burned by arsonists and pillaged by looters.
The men, many of them carrying the age of high school students, were later arrested and charged with treason and related events but were freed by a court on a legal technicality. Police still keep a watchful eye on them to this day.
“The information received is going through intelligence gathering, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service revealed it was a plan to disrupt the carnival actives, intelligence agencies were active and vigilant and the discovery was made,” spokesman Jackman said.