By Jada Loutoo www.guardian.co.tt
Security personnel are on high alert to deal with any backlash arising out of the arrest of Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr and a subsequent raid at the Jamaat's Mucurapo Road compound, Police Commissioner Trevor Paul said yesterday.
"We expect people to conduct themselves lawfully but we are fully aware that we live in a world where people do unlawful things and we are prepared for any eventualities," he said.
Paul, at a press conference at his office at the Police Administration Building, Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain, also told citizens there was no need to panic.
He was accompanied by deputy Police Commissioner Glen Roach.
Early yesterday morning, police swooped down on the Jamaat's compound.
Paul said after Bakr's comments on Friday, during Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations at the Mucurapo mosque, security officials saw the "need to carry out further operations" at the Jamaat compound.
Bakr was charged on Wednesday with sedition and incitement and appeared yesterday in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court, where he was denied bail.
Paul said there was a need to arrest and charge the Jamaat's leader over his reported statements about threats to collect zakaat from rich Muslims.
He said no more on the issue, which is now before the court, adding only that security officials were aware that Bakr's arrest and charging might have caused some unease in the population.
He assured citizens they could go about their lawful business with a great sense of calmness.
Yesterday's all-day raid on the Mucurapo Road compound, which houses the Jamaat's mosque, Bakr's office and a two schools, was conducted lawfully and professionally, Paul said.
A sniper rifle, with telescope, one hand grenade, four magazines, 500 rounds of .56 ammunition and a quantity of other ammunition, including 9 mm, .38 and 7.62 calibre, were found.
Eleven people were detained and charges are expected to be laid.
Paul said having found so large a cache of guns and ammunition, it was necessary to carry out an in-depth search of the compound.
"We will continue until we are satisfied that there are no more at the site," he said, confirming also that similar raids were made at seven or eight mosques across T&T, all of which are affiliated to the Jamaat al Muslimeen.
Nothing was found during those raids.
But Paul said the shakedown at the Mucurapo compound will continue overnight and today, if necessary.
"The objective is to ensure there are no more arms or ammunition," he said, refusing to say under what authority the police conducted their hunt, only that the information the police had received "served to be correct."
He also said there was no underground tunnel leading to the sea found on the compound, as was reported earlier in the day.
Paul also discounted claims that a similar search of the Jamaat compound, on October 14, was not detailed enough, since police found nothing at that time.
That search occurred after a bombing that night outside popular liming spot Smokey and Bunty's.
Bakr and some of his followers were detained by police but later released.
'AG gave green light'
Authorisation to tear down an office at the Jamaat al Muslimeen was given by Attorney General John Jeremie on the ground of national security.
Sources said yesterday the go-ahead was given by Jeremie after police, using metal detectors and scanners, detected a large amount of metal underground on the Jamaat's Mucurapo Road, St James, compound.
A security source said, "Earlier in the day guns and ammunition were seized during a search by police, who had been using metal detectors.
"A large metal presence was discovered underground and digging had commenced to unearth whatever the scanners picked up."
A source at the Office of the Attorney General confirmed that the search on the Jamaat's compound was based on the grounds of national security and Jeremie had authorised it.
Reports stated yesterday the Jamaat was expected to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for the destruction of the office, which belonged to the organisation's leader Yasin Abu Bakr.
In 2001, the State was ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages for the destruction of the Jamaat's buildings during and after the 1990 attempted coup.
Jeremie, in a statement in 2004, said the State's options for collecting the $15 million debt owed to the State by the Jamaat for its role in the coup attempt would be complicated.
One option open to it, he said, was to move against the organisation as a body corporate and levy upon the Mucurapo Road property.
However, the Jamaat is leasing the site from the Port-of -Spain City Corporation. (JL)
Prayers as usual at Mucurapo mosque
"Tomorrow Juma as usual."
These were the words of senior member of the Jamaat, Kala Aki Bua, to the followers who remained outside the compound of the Jamaat al Muslimeen last night.
The members plan to have prayers on the Mucurapo Road compound as usual this morning, although Police Commissioner Trevor Paul said the police will occupy the building for as long as they need to.
Aki Bua was called onto the compound, a short distance from where the other members had gathered on the street, where he met with police.
After the meeting he told the gathering that the police had asked for the continued co-operation of the Jamaat.
He said an agreement was reached that six members would be able to stay in a shed next to the compound for the night.
"Hopefully by tomorrow some time early they would have completed the place and ent mash up the whole place."
Up to 8 pm, as police officers and soldiers occupied the compound, there appeared to be little activity.
Govt has declared war - Muslimeen
BY CAROL MATROO
At around 4.50 pm yesterday, members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen stood outside the compound of their Mucurapo Road, St James, mosque, reciting the Salaat-ul-Asr, the Muslims' middle prayer.
Muslims are bound to pray five times every day.
Both men and women knelt on the grassy sidewalk as they were unable to enter the compound which was occupied by army and police personnel.
The Jamaat's masjid was under siege from as early as 3 am yesterday, even as the Jamaat's leader, Yasin Abu Bakr was being held on charges of sedition and incitement.
This was as a result of statements Bakr made during his Eid sermon last Friday that unless rich Muslims paid zakaat—two and a half per cent of their income—there would be war.
Bakr's second in command, Kala Aki Bua, said zakaat was compulsory among Muslims.
"If you do not, then you are a deviant Muslim and the fire will burn you," he warned.
Aki Bua also said it was convenient for the Government to break down Bakr's office.
"They expected to find a whole cache of arms and ammunition. It is convenient to break the whole front of the imam's office down because your metal detector picked up something in the foundation but foundation has steel," Aki Bua said during a statement to the media outside the masjid yesterday evening.
He was also concerned that no member of the Jamaat was present to witness the search.
"Three weeks ago they searched the place and we were allowed to walk around with them and they found nothing. This time they decided to keep us out. It was 'We must find something on the Jamaat compound'."
He said this was a war that Government had declared on the Jamaat al Muslimeen.
©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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