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A timeline of terrorist worries in the Caribbean

Published: 
Thursday, June 29, 2017

Terrorism was not a front-burner regional issue until five years ago.

Francis Forbes, executive director of Caricom’s Crime and Security Agency, said terrorism was earlier on the radar at the start of the millennium when regional crime began spiralling. A Caricom Task Force had recommended measures ranging from improved border control action to upgrading legislative and domestic security measures.

Still, in 2007 when Caricom states were hosting the Cricket World Cup, the threat of terrorism “was regarded as real but basically remained unspoken,” Forbes said.

Up to 2011 when Forbes (in another capacity) addressed a US security forum, he “felt no compulsion to include the issue as a threat of any significance to Caricom.”

One year later, that changed. Caricom’s 2012 regional threat perspective included terrorism, he said.

By 2013, its security co-operation thrust identified terrorism and attacks on critical infrastructure as significant and potential risks, Dillon added.

And in that year, T&T intelligence agencies officially started listing T&T fighters and their families who’d begun heading to Isis.

Out of the 200 Caricom nationals so far watch-listed, about 130 are believed to be T&T nationals—fighters and families—confirmed in March by Dillon as being involved in terrorist activities overseas.

Dillon said the Caribbean’s geographic position as a gateway between the Americas makes the region a prime transshipment point for contraband and illegal activity: “...drug trafficking, arms trafficking, migrant smuggling, money laundering, illegal immigration. This unfortunately has led to the Caribbean being exposed to a host of transnational threats that undermine peace and security.”

“Given the progressive nature of attacks by groups like Isis and ‘lone wolf’ supporters in the US, UK, France and Australia, risk of terrorism has become far more evident in 2017.”

Caricom has also noted the Trump administration’s positions on security and terrorism. Forbes noted the January warnings by Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who feared that the US’s executive order barring entry to six predominantly Muslim states may extend to the Caribbean if Caricom didn’t unite, organise and “push back now.”