US Admiral says Caribbean possible terrorist threat

WASHINGTON, United States, March 31, 2008 – A top American military officer has pointed to the Caribbean as a possible terrorist threat to the United States.

US Navy Commander, Admiral James Stavridis noted the concern in the US Southern Command 2008 Posture Statement. The US Southern Command is charged with promoting security cooperation and conducting military operations in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

“We consider Latin America and the Caribbean to be potential bases for future terrorist threats to the United States and others in the Americas,” Admiral Stavridis noted.

“The conditions in parts of the region – easily skirted borders, black market economies, corruption, poverty, established illicit trafficking routes – all could provide

manoeuvring room for any form of terrorism to exploit, to include Islamic radical groups.”

He made reference to the alleged involvement of a Trinidadian and three Guyanese nationals in a reported plot to bomb the gas lines leading to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, saying that “the leading suspects’ roots in the Caribbean raise the specter of Islamic terrorist activity gaining traction.”

“We believe members, facilitators, and sympathisers of Islamic terrorist organisations are indeed present in our hemisphere,” Admiral Stavridis indicated.

He however indicated that the US Southern Command which he leads has a unique regional plan to combat that threat through multiple avenues including “shaping the strategic environment through humanitarian operations that deter radical organisations from gaining a foothold in the region, and building partner nation capacity to detect

and defeat threats in a cooperative environment”.

“These efforts will help ensure the forward defense of the United States and increased security of our partners,” the military official said.

Among the key initiatives to address potential terrorist threats in the region is Operation Enduring Freedom-Caribbean and Central America (OEF-CCA) which began this year.

“Within a cooperative regional environment, OEF-CCA seeks to improve the capabilities of Caribbean and Central American partners to interdict and disrupt terrorists who might leverage illicit transnational routes and uncontrolled areas to threaten the United States and/or our neighbors,” Admiral Stavridis explained.

“OEF-CCA is a long-term endeavor and will create a multi-layered counter-terrorism posture of mutual benefit to the United States and regional partners.”

The US Southern Command’s areas of focus in the Caribbean are Antigua and Barbuda,

Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Netherlands Antilles.