Leaving paradise to die for ISIL?
ISIS in the Caribbean
Trinidad has the highest rate of Islamic State recruitment in the Western hemisphere. How did this happen?
...People may want to give some thought as to whether they will vacation there. It still seems strange that ISIL would find an outpost in a Caribbean Island that is mainly a vacation destination. But radical Islam has managed to destroy the tourist economy of Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
In a recent paper in the journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, John McCoy and W. Andy Knight posit that between 89-125 Trinidadians—or Trinis, to use the standard T&T idiom—have joined ISIS. Roodal Moonilal, an opposition Member of Parliament in T&T, insists that the total number is considerably higher, claiming that, according to a leaked security document passed on to him, over 400 have left since 2013. Even the figure of 125 would easily place Trinidad, with a population of 1.3 million, including 104,000 Muslims, top of the list of Western countries with the highest rates of foreign-fighter radicalization; it’s by far the largest recruitment hub in the Western Hemisphere, about a four and a half hour flight from the U.S. capital.
In 2011, the government declared a state of emergency, in response to a wave of violent crime linked to drug trafficking and intelligence reports warning of an assassination plot against the then-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and senior members of her cabinet. At-Trinidadi, along with several others, was detained on suspicion of colluding in the alleged plot. In Dabiq, at-Trinidadi, alludes to this, but denies any involvement. “That would have been an honor for us to attempt,” he acknowledged, “but the reality of our operations was much smaller.” He also credited a Muslim scholar named Ashmead Choate as a formative spiritual influence. Choate, a fellow Trini and former principal of the Darul Quran Wal Hadith Islamic School in Freeport, central Trinidad, reportedly left for Syria between 2012 and 2013, taking his family with him. According to at-Trinidadi’s testimony in Dabiq, Choate, who was detained alongside him during the state of emergency, was killed fighting in Ramadi, Iraq.
The last state of emergency in T & T was declared in 1990, when, on July 27, a group of black Muslims, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, stormed into the nation’s Parliament in the capital city of Port of Spain and tried to overthrow the government, shooting then-Prime Minister Arthur Robinson and taking members of his cabinet hostage. Around the same time, another group of Muslimeen gunmen forced their way into the studio of the nation’s only TV station. At 6:30 p.m. the Muslimeen’s leader Yasin Abu Bakr came on television and announcedthat the government was overthrown. This was premature: Six days later, the Muslimeen surrendered, and the government regained control. But history was made. As Harold Trinkunas of the Brookings Institution remarked to The Miami Herald, Trinidad is “the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has had an actual Islamic insurrection.”