Published On: Thu, Oct 16th, 2014

Serious decisions to make on Trinidad ‘terrorists’, says national security minister

mns2_6PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- If there is clear evidence people have gone abroad and involved themselves in terrorist activity, then the government of Trinidad and Tobago will have to make “very serious decisions” with respect to how to treat with such people if and when they attempt to return home, National Security Minister Gary Griffith told the Trinidad Express on Monday.

He was responding to questions on what policy the government had toward people who were fighting alongside supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

Griffith said it was a very technical issue.

“Some countries have adopted a policy of having such persons debarred from re-entering on the basis that they are a danger to national security. It is a matter which we have to discuss at the level of the National Security Council,” he said.

He added: “If it is clear that individuals have gone and involved themselves in terrorist activity, obviously we will have to make some very serious decisions because the security of the country is of paramount importance.”

Over the past week, there have been increasing media reports, including video clips of nationals allegedly fighting for terrorist group ISIS in Syria.

Griffith, speaking on a radio programme, said there were “several nationals now linked to the group”.

Two nationals have already been identified as fighters with ISIS, with the mother of one of the men confirming her son was indeed fighting on behalf of the group. Joan Crawford told the Sunday Express at the weekend her son, Shane, 29, had gone to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIS, prompted by the inadequacy of what his life had become in Trinidad and the need to find a greater purpose.

“He is fighting. He does not believe in raping women and killing children. It is those crimes which were being committed in Syria which prompted him to go and fight. He life is better. He has purpose. He has his family and he is not coming back here,” she said.

Griffith, during his radio interview, suggested there are more Trinidadian nationals supporting terrorist groups.

“It is no longer the case where 20 years ago what we saw as a terrorist... was just someone with explosives around his waist and you pull a pin. The concept of terrorism has now moved to different elements. It is just not the actual terrorist, but it also involves persons who may become sleeper cells... then there will be others who will be sympathisers to terrorist activity, then there will be others who will be training persons to be involved in terrorist activity,” he explained.

Griffith said steps were being taken to monitor these nationals, particularly those who may want to return to Trinidad and Tobago.

“There are certain countries, now they have pinpointed individuals who are citizens of their own country and they have gone to Syria, they have been trained... and they are trying to get back into their country and they are prevented from getting back in their own country. If I decide to do that, then God help me. But again I am not saying that is what we intend to do in Trinidad and Tobago. We have to be very clear between intelligence and evidence,” he told radio listeners.

Trinidad and Tobago last month cosponsored a United States resolution at the United Nations outlawing terrorism and Griffith said Port of Spain, which was one of two Caribbean countries to sign on to the US resolution, was right in doing so.

Co-sponsoring that UN resolution, what it has allowed is that it will ensure that the real-time intelligence from other countries can now be brought into your own country as quickly as possible,” he said, adding “even the information of the individuals that we speak about, it is because of that resolution”.

By Ria Taitt -  Trinidad Express

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