By Nalinee Seelal
February 17, 2018 – newsday.co.tt
US law-enforcement officers, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), tipped off TT’s Special Branch and the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) in December last year on plans by a certain group of local Muslims to bomb the US Embassy in Port of Spain between Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
The intelligence was also shared with head of the National Security Council Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon.
This led to US law-enforcement officers working alongside the local team, using state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and wire-tapping to intercept, what has been described as, coded messages between people of interest who had been linked to Islamic State (ISIS).
Four people who were detained between Wednesday and Thursday were being interviewed by the FBI at four different police stations yesterday.
The story has now gone international. CNN yesterday reported that US soldiers participated in anti-terror raids in TT on Thursday, helping to capture four “high-value targets.” The US troops did not participate in any direct combat.
The report said TT has long been an area of concern for the US military and intelligence communities as it is assessed to be home to ISIS sympathisers with officials saying that some of its citizens have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join extremist groups.
During the several weeks of surveillance, the team targeted several people from the El Socorro district and others from Laventille, Enterprise and Bamboo Settlement in Valsayn.
On Wednesday and Thursday they targeted five mosques at El Socorro, Munroe Road, Sangre Grande, Bamboo and Laventille. The searches centred on finding explosive devices including bombs, hand grenades and arms and ammunition .
Although nothing was found during the raids, the team believes the devices are concealed somewhere.
Yesterday, relatives of the detainees said they do not know where they are and are not being given any information.
In a release yesterday, the Ministry of National Security said it was satisfied that security agencies are well prepared to secure the public’s safety during Carnival. The minister commended the police for their “timely unearthing and aversion of a potential threat” on Thursday, saying it was “the result of continued implementation of an integrated, intelligence-led strategy.”
Yesterday public relations officer of Muslims of TT, Imtiaz Mohammed, described the arrests of the men as an attempt to embarrass the community. He described, as a hoax, information that there were plans to disrupt the Carnival activities and also believes it is part of a plan by the US and TT government to get the population to support a bill to amend the Terrorist Act.