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Terrorist watch - US official urges regional states to be on alert

Published:Sunday | May 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Members of an ISIS affiliate walk captured Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Libya where they were executed.

A high-level official from the United States State Department has pointed to the susceptibility of Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean to terrorist attacks, given evidence to suggest that individuals from the region have also joined the throng of terrorists who are reaping havoc in other parts of the world.

"There are a handful of folks throughout the Caribbean that have gone. As I close my eyes, I am visualising the map that I have seen," the security official told Caribbean journalists last Thursday at a meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC.

"The recruitment is a global effort and there is no country that is immune. Trinidad is probably the largest problem within the Caribbean in terms of people that have either gone or express a desire to go, but we are all at risk," said the official who is from the Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

The official, who did not wish to be named, given the sensitive nature of his job, said the US has been working with governments in the region to see how they can help them to develop policies and build their capacity to deal with counter-terrorism through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

He said most of the focus has been on training individuals to respond to terrorist incidents and interviewing known or suspected terrorist.


Counter-Terrorism Strategy


The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is currently in the process of drafting its Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the State Department official noted that the regional body has also engaged the Americans in discussions on the topic.

"We have been in consultations with them and they have been in consultations with other countries to look at best practices to ensure that the strategy that they come up with includes international best practices (and) international obligations, such as the UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which deals with foreign terrorist fighters," he said.

The US official said it is very important that CARICOM take the necessary actions to fight counter-terrorism, given its dependence on tourism.

"The whole Caribbean basin depends so much on tourism. Imagine what will happen if somebody goes nuts on the beach; if somebody goes nuts on the docks where the cruise ship comes in. This is critical infrastructure for the Caribbean," he said.

"With the current global environment, it is very difficult to say no country is at risk. The folks that want to do harm nowadays, they have stopped just being parochial about it. Before it used to be, we are going to fight in this country, they have expanded it. Al-Qaeda made it an international event and started to go and attack other countries," he said


Symptoms of radicalisation


But the official believes that governments can only do so much and no more in fighting terrorism. He feels that the emphasis should also be on getting civil society to get involved in curtailing the radicalisation of their friends and family, since much like suicide, the symptoms of radicalisation are sometimes evident.

"Those first symptoms are going to be seen by friends and family. The person who is becoming radicalised is going to start to act different and family members are going to say, hey what is going on? So we encourage civil society to engage those people at risk, and I am not going to say youths, because it's different all around," he said.