WASHINGTON DC, United States, Monday July 24, 2017 – The United States says Trinidad and Tobago had the highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in the Western Hemisphere last year and the return of these terrorist fighters was cause for concern.
In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, released last week, the US State Department said many countries in the region have porous borders, established smuggling routes and limited law enforcement capabilities.
“These vulnerabilities offered opportunities to local and international terrorist groups and posed challenges to governments in the region,” the report said.
“Canada and the Caribbean – particularly Trinidad and Tobago – were sources of foreign terrorist fighters in 2016; the return of these trained foreign terrorist fighters is of great concern” it indicated.
According to the State Department, the Trinidad and Tobago government reported in 2015 that more than 100 Trinidadian nationals, including women and minors, had travelled to Syria and Iraq, with a handful reportedly returned to the twin-island state.
The report noted that with Muslims making up about six percent of the population – roughly divided between persons of African and South Asian heritage – foreign terrorist fighters reportedly came from both communities. Many had prior affiliations with criminal gangs, it added.
The report indicated that an inter-agency National Counterterrorism Working Group, led by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of National Security, meets regularly to detect, deter and disrupt any possible terrorist actions; to prevent a terrorist act in Trinidad and Tobago; and to identify and prosecute terrorists.
The report also pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago continued to identify and monitor persons that raised terrorism concerns and maintained a list of nationals who travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIS.
More than 70 nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are believed to be fighting with ISIS in Syria, the report said.
In June last year, it said leaders from Trinidad and Tobago’s Islamic community signed a joint statement condemning ISIS and all forms of violent extremism.