By F. Martin
TTC Service.- Terrorism is a phenomenon that the Caribbean region observes from a distance, but governments already add it in their lists of problems that can cause irreparable damages to the local tourism industry.
“Imagine, most of the islands are depending on tourism and we have an incident with one of our tourist ships – maybe in Aruba, Martinique, St Vincent – you could imagine the sort of catastrophic reaction that is going to happen to our main export”, warned last week the St Lucia’s national security minister, Hermangild Francis.
According to Castries local press, in an address to members of the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Francis said he has discussed the issue of terrorism with the Director of the Regional Security System (RSS) and the threat it poses to the Caribbean.
He also added concrete data to justify his concerns. “We do not have the exact number of ISIS fighters returning to their countries but we know that between 150 to 400 of these individuals, especially from Trinidad and Tobago, have returned”, the Minister added.
Francis say St Lucia will be addressing the issue by going to the primary schools to ensure that young children are not radicalized. “That is one of the techniques that the ISIS movement uses,” he observed.
Last year a London newspaper issued the first warning about the matter. The British tabloid The Daily Star reported that nearly 100 recruits from the dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago have traveled to Syria to join the group known as ISIS. The paper added that ISIS at that moment has also targeted smaller island nations in the Indian Ocean for troops, such as the Maldives and Mauritius.
The report cited British diplomat Arthur Snell as acknowledging that an ISIS recruitment drive in the Caribbean could be successful as much of the population face living conditions that could make them prone to extremism.
Recently, David Jessop, a Consultant and former Managing Director of the Caribbean Council wrote for Caribbean News Service (CNS) that terrorism is a sensitive subject in a Caribbean context. “Following recent events in Europe it is clear that it is an issue that now needs to be taken more seriously in the region as those who wish harm to the world begin to deploy their ‘foreign policy’.
In his article Jessop cited Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua’s Ambassador to the US that made clear in a speech about the Commonwealth’s global role for good, the Caribbean “should not linger in the false notion that small countries are immune from the conflicts that engulf larger and more powerful states”.
“My worst nightmare for our idyllic islands of the Caribbean is that the tactics of terror so casually utilized by extreme groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) will be deployed within them,” Sir Ronald said.
The British specialist remembered then that General John Kelly, the Commander in charge of US Southern Command wrote in a report to the US senate that he was troubled by the operational and financial overlap between criminal and terrorist networks in the region.
At a press conference at the time Kelly spoke frankly about the extremists involved in radicalizing some young Caribbean people and the dangers posed if they returned to countries, as he put it, where there is little capacity to track radicalized and potentially dangerous returnees.
Last March a Trinidadian man who made headlines in 2016 when he admitted to killings in his homeland and urged Muslims still living there to wage jihad in the twin-island republic, has been categorized by the United States as a global terrorist.
Shane Dominic Crawford – whose also goes by the names Abu Sa’d at-Trinidadi, Asadullah, Shane Asadullah Crawford and Asad – is among five people whom the US Department of State added to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under an executive order which imposes sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or the country’s economy.
The 31-year-old Crawford is “believed to be a foreign terrorist fighter in Syria carrying out terrorist activity on behalf of ISIS, including acting as an English language propagandist for the group,” the US State Department said.
The experts agree that the primary target may be the United States and its citizens. The Caribbean and Central America’s geographic location and it porous borders make the region an attractive area to operate out of or in.
“Inaction now, whether at a national or regional level, may therefore be considered an unforgivable gamble with the region’s economic future”, Jessop wrote.