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Trinidad has highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in Western Hemisphere - US

Published:Sunday | July 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley


While there were no known indigenous or foreign terrorist groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, the United States says the twin-island republic had the highest per capita rate of ISIS recruitment in the Western Hemisphere in 2016.

It also said that the return of these terrorist fighters is of "great concern" to Washington.

In releasing its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 last week, the United States Department of State says many countries in the region have porous borders, limited law-enforcement capabilities, and established smuggling routes.

"These vulnerabilities offered opportunities to local and international terrorist groups and posed challenges to governments in the region," it said.

Canada and the Caribbean - particularly Trinidad and Tobago - were sources of foreign terrorist fighters in 2016, it said.

The State Department said the Keith Rowley administration remained a willing US counterterrorism partner and quickly accepted offers of assistance to share border security information, develop a strategy to counter violent extremists and prosecute terrorists.

It said the Trinidad and Tobago government reported in 2015 that more than 100 of its nationals, including women and minors, had travelled to Syria and Iraq, and a handful reportedly returned to Trinidad and Tobago.

With Muslims making up about six per cent of the population, roughly split between persons of African and South Asian heritage, the report said foreign terrorist fighters reportedly come from both communities, adding that many, although not all, have had prior affiliations with criminal gangs.

The report said an inter-agency National Counterterrorism Working Group, led by Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of National Security, is working on a national counterterrorism strategy to address priorities and principles.

The group meets on a regular basis to detect, deter and disrupt any possible terrorist actions, to prevent terrorist acts in Trinidad and Tobago, and to identify and prosecute terrorists, the report said.

It said the national strategy is in its final stages and will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval when it is completed.