Published On: Mon, Nov 16th, 2015

Antigua-Barbuda ambassador warns of regional terrorism threat

Sir-Ronald-SandersNASSAU, Bahamas -- In prescient remarks on Tuesday, three days ahead of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, France, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US, Sir Ronald Sanders, warned that the Caribbean region should not linger in the false notion that small countries are immune from the conflicts that engulf larger and more powerful states.

Sanders, who is Antigua and Barbuda’s nominee for the post of Commonwealth secretary general to be selected by heads of government later this month in Malta, was at the time delivering a presentation entitled “The Commonwealth of Nations: Its role for Global Good” at the 2015 Global Leadership Forum Nassau, Bahamas.

“My worst nightmare for our idyllic islands of the Caribbean is that the tactics of terror so casually utilized by extreme groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) will be deployed within them,” he said.

Sanders noted that, despite its greater experience of terrorism, Egyptian airport security could not stop a bomb being placed on the Russian civilian plane whose explosion killed hundreds of tourists.

“How much more vulnerable are Caribbean airports and seaports?” he asked.

He said that the answer to this growing problem cannot be simply to bolster security, which is only part of the answer and a very expensive one for small countries with limited resources, and would, in any event, tackle only the possible effect and not the actual cause.

“The real cause lies in the radicalization of peoples in many parts of the world based on grievances, both perceived and real, that find expression in brutal violence and terror and sometimes hides behind a thin veil of religion. This problem cannot be bombed out of existence, nor can all its perpetrators and followers be imprisoned,” Sanders continued.

He called for initiatives at a global level to promote mutual understanding and respect among all faith and communities; and an inquiry into the causes of radicalization with recommendations and financial resources to address it.

“Made up of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus, the Commonwealth of Nations – which already has the machinery for dialogue in place at the levels of government and civil society – is well placed to begin such initiatives and to conduct such an inquiry,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Saturday sent a message of condolences to the president of France, Francois Hollande, following the series of violent attacks across Paris, which claimed the lives of over 120 persons and injured more than 350.

In his message to Hollande, Browne said that terrorism is a scourge upon common humanity and said that his government and the people of Antigua and Barbuda deplore the vile act of terrorism and condemn ISIS strongly and unequivocally.

Earlier this year, a top US general also warned that Caribbean countries are unable to track nationals that could return from fighting for ISIS in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The war in Syria has attracted roughly 100 foreign fighters from the Caribbean, said General John Kelly, commander of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).

At a Pentagon briefing in March, Kelly said he was concerned that those who are radicalized enough to leave for Syria would return with greater terrorism skills and motivations.

On Sunday, criminologist Daurius Figueira warned that Trinidad and Tobago Muslims recruited by ISIS could be used to infiltrate and destabilise western countries.

A week after ISIS released a video featuring four Trinidad-born fighters urging Trinidad and Tobago Muslims to take up arms to fight in Syria, Figueira said: “There is a purpose to the video. Why produce a recruitment video only for T&T, given the comparatively small size of the Muslim population here. It accounts for only about five percent of the population?

Figueira said CARICOM nationals, Trinidadians and people from the Commonwealth who spoke English and were educated can be used by ISIS to take the fight on the home soil of first-world countries such as Britain and the US.

Trinidad and Tobago and eight other Caribbean countries enjoy visa-free travel to Europe.

According to former national security minister Gary Griffith, about 30 Trinidad and Tobago nationals made the trip to Syria to fight for ISIS last year.

The United Nations had also warned that Trinidad and Tobago is one of a number of countries with Muslim populations that is being used as a recruiting ground for the terror group.

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