After ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in Paris last Friday, concerns are growing over its ability to infiltrate and cause terror attacks in the Caribbean.
Many of the island states like Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Aruba and the Cayman Islands are heavily dependent on tourism, with many of its visitors comprising of Americans and Europeans.
“Security has never been considered a high priority for the industry in the region, making it a soft target for ISIS. Many Caribbean countries do not want their tourism product debilitated by menacing security measures. Mind you, if Jamaica was the subject of an ISIS attack on tourists, it would certainly damage a leading pillar of its economy and significantly reduce its foreign exchange earning abilities,” said Joseph Simpson, formerly of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourists Association (CHTA).
Earlier this year, US Marine General John Kelly told a Pentagon briefing that Caribbean countries including Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname were worried about Muslim terrorists returning home to conduct terror attacks and that their respective governments did not have the ability to track or monitor them. Of more concern to Kelly was the likelihood of Caribbean ISIS militants moving undetected into the United States.
Trinidad & Tobago has proven fertile ground for ISIS. Both the Minister for National Security, Edmund Dillon, and his predecessor Gary Griffith have acknowledged that some 89 of their nationals have joined ISIS to date. Trinidadian criminologist Daurius Figueira noted the spread of radical Islam in Trinidad and has said that the country is already a recruitment pool for ISIS. The United Nations has also warned that the country is being used as a recruitment ground for ISIS.
A Trinidadian called Abu Zayd al-Muhajir left to join ISIS in Syria and in a video released earlier this year, said that as a Muslim, in his country, he was unable to conform 100 per cent to the Islam faith. Aktar Ali of Port-Of-Spain is an ISIS loyalist who believes in Sharia law and would like to see the spread of Islam throughout the Caribbean. He maintains that Trinidad & Tobago should be a caliphate and lead the region.
Gary Griffith is calling for legislation to prevent Trinidadian –born terrorists traveling back and forth into the country, however the Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon has said: “As citizens of Trinidad and Tobago there is no law in place to stop them from coming home. If they have committed an international crime, we will work with our international partners to bring them to justice but for now they are still citizens of Trinidad & Tobago.”
Earlier this year it was reported that websites of both the government of Jamaica and St Vincent were hacked by supporters of ISIS. The FBI investigated the matter. General Secretary of the Islamic Association of St Lucia, Taaiq Assad expressed concerned about the presence of ISIS in the Caribbean and the rise of radical Islam there.
“This is a concern that I have from the time we heard of the United States sending criminals from their jails back to the Caribbean. I am sure that the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security will issue whatever orders are necessary for whatever action is deemed appropriate to deal with any threat,” said Assad.