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Teen accused of trying to join ISIS was running off to England in search of better life

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 4:00 AMCorey Robinson

It seems as if a scheme to run off to England went horribly wrong for a 15-year-old Jamaican boy who was denied entry to Suriname on suspicion that he was headed to Turkey to join the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). That is, if his granduncle is to be believed.

The youngster's granduncle said the teenager, whose name and granduncle's name The Gleaner has not published because the accused is a minor, was stopped by officials in Suriname as he tried to flee to England to be with his mother, who he had not seen for some six years.

According to the uncle, the youngster did not possess a visa to England, and as such was

supposed to meet up with his mother and grandmother in The Netherlands, and from there he would travel to England.

"Him born and grow up at St Mary, him a good pickney. Him don't know bout no terrorist thing. Is England him a go to stay with him mother; him never plan to come back," said the relative, breaking into tears as he recounted the ordeal that he says has brought much shame and trauma to his family.

"Him don't have any England visa, and because of that them send him through a different channel. Him couldn't go to England straight," he continued, "Him have to go through Suriname and go to another country (The Netherlands) before him can go England. Him mother and grandmother was waiting on him at the airport over there," continued the granduncle, explaining that the youngster fled Jamaica in search of a better life.

"People a hunt for a better life, and if a man can get a better life he is going to hunt it. My grandnephew is no terrorist, him don't mix up in them things there; no gang business, nothing like that. So I don't know how dem calling my grandnephew terrorist," the older man, recalling how he took care of the teenager from birth, and how well behaved and peaceful he was growing up.

International media reported that the teen was stopped at the Johan Pengel Airport in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, on Saturday. Police in that country claimed he was headed to Turkey and would have travelled through The Netherlands to get there.

Media reports also added that the youngster was interrogated, and sent back home to Jamaica on Saturday night.

Last night, police confirmed that the youngster was still in police custody, and that the issue was still being investigated by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime branch (C-TOC), along with other law-enforcement agencies.

"It would be premature to issue any detailed statement on this issue at this time," Assistant Commissioner of Police Devon Watkis, head of C-TOC, was quoted as saying in a press release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communications Unit.

Watkiss, however, assured the public that information regarding the probe would be made public as soon as possible.

Watkiss' reassurance offered no comfort to the granduncle, who said that despite his efforts, he has been unsuccessful in getting information from police who searched the premises in which the boy was living in St Mary, and who also detained the teenager's father in relation to the incident over the weekend. The boy's father has since been released, the relative said.

"Dem come and search up the place and even threaten my nephew that him going to box him down. I don't know what kinda treatment this, and we are not terrorist," said the man, breaking into another bout of tears as he spoke to The Gleaner. "Me want back me pickney. Send him come back. I don't know why dem holding him," he continued.

He has called for the intervention of Security Minister Peter Bunting into the incident. However, that intervention will be slow in coming, as Bunting was off the island yesterday.

"You need to talk to the CP (commissioner of police). I am off the island on official business," said Bunting told The Gleaner via telephone. "In any event, at this stage it is the police who are conducting investigations and best placed to comment on the progress."

Bunting, in another news forum, said local law enforcement played a part in tracking down the youngster overseas.

The incident came a week after General John Kelly, commander of the US Southern Command, told the US Armed Services Committee that about 100 people from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Venezuela had joined ISIS. Kelly's report at that time was rebutted by Bunting, who said that his ministry was monitoring the situation regarding the recruiting efforts of international terrorist groups and had found nothing to indicate that Jamaicans were involved.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com