As the annual Carnival celebration kicks off in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, government officials are releasing information on a rise in young people being recruited by ISIS from the island paradise. The rise amongst youth has been so significant, that President Donald Trump has reportedly called the nation’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley in order to discuss security measures and the threat of terrorism.
The U.S. is concerned about ISIS finding a home so close to its borders. According to former United States ambassador, John L. Estrada and Trinidad’s minister of national security, Edmund Dillon, over one hundred people have made the trip from Trinidad and Tobago to Syria, and have quickly risen high in rank due to their English speaking skills.
“Trinidadians do very well with ISIL,” Estrada said. “They are high up in the ranks, they are very respected and they are English-speaking. ISIL have used them for propaganda to spread their message through the Caribbean.”
The Trinidadian government has taken measures in the last week to increase security and contain the issue. The criminalization of membership in the Islamic State and requiring travelers to certain known terrorist regions to prove that they were not doing so in order to take part in terrorist activities, are just a few of the new changes.
Imtiaz Mohammed, president of the Islamic Missionaries Guild, has heavily criticized the measures for making sweeping generalizations. “You can’t just go to a court and have a judge tell you that you are guilty with no evidence, just an assumption,” he said.
As of now, there is no change in policy from the U.S. government on travel to and from Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1990, a coup was staged in Trinidad by a Muslim group called Jamaat al Muslimeen in which 42 insurgents took over the parliament building — known as the Red House — in Port of Spain. It is the only known attempt to overthrow a Western government by an Islamic group. Then-prime minister A. N. R. Robinson and several members of his cabinet were held hostage for six days. Meanwhile other insurgents took over the national television station and the coup leader Yasin Abu Bakr announced the government had been overthrown.
However, after days of looting in Port of Spain and 24 deaths, Jamaat al Muslimeen’s members surrendered in exchange for amnesty. Abu Bakr still lives in Trinidad.