Sunday, June 03, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 21: HEADS UP -- The JFK Airport bombing plot and its Caribbean links

If you caught the news overnight, you will know that US law enforcement officials have just moved in on a long-developing plot by a circle of Guyanese and Trinidad based Islamists, to blow up the big fuel pipelines and/or tanks under JFK Airport, New York.

This is important, not only because of the Trinidad-Guyana connexion [which brings in the issue of whether el Shukrijumah was engaged at some level in the process] but especially because of a factor that was not stressed in the news -- the plot seems to date back something like ten years, which opens up uncomfortable questions as to what had been going on in some sectors of the region's Islamic communities over the past twenty years or so.

According to an NBC report:
Federal authorities say they foiled an alleged plot by a retired airport worker [63-year-old Russell Defreitas . . . Also known as Mohammed], a former Guyanese Parliament member [Abdul Kadir, an imam in Guyana who had served in their parliament and was mayor of the town of Linden, Guyana] and other Muslim extremists [ NB: Third arrested: Trinidad citizen Kareem Ibrahim. The suspect on the loose is Abdel Nur, a Guyanese] to plant explosives on jet fuel arteries at John F. Kennedy International Airport, triggering massive casualties and economic havoc.Three men were arrested and a fourth sought in Trinidad for reportedly hatching the brazen scheme that they boasted would be worse than 9/11 and put "the whole country in mourning," authorities said.
While an AP report cites "pipeline and security experts" to the effect that the attack, if carried out, "probably would not have led to significant loss of life as intended," they agreed that it would have "crippled America's economy, particularly the airline industry," which in turn would have immediately devastated our region economically; not least because commonly available informed estimates indicate that about 1/4 each of employment and GDP in the Caribbean comes out of the tourism industry.

However, the AP report also notes:
Russell Defreitas, a U.S. citizen native to Guyana and former JFK air cargo employee, said the airport named for the slain president was targeted because it is a symbol that would put "the whole country in mourning."

"It's like you can kill the man twice," said Defreitas, 63, who first hatched his plan more than a decade ago when he worked as a cargo handler for a service company, according to the indictment.

Authorities said the men were motivated by hatred toward the United States and Israel. Defreitas was recorded saying he "wanted to do something to get those bastards" and he boasted that he had been taught to make bombs in Guyana.

The NBC report continues:
The FBI and other agencies said they had been monitoring the suspects for more than a year with the help of an informant, a convicted drug dealer, who had infiltrated their ranks, traveled with them to Guyana and Trinidad and secretly recorded their conversations. Authorities said they decided to end their surveillance and arrest the men over concerns that at least one of the plotters was about to flee.
In short, the plot was not yet at the execution phase, and thanks to an informer, there was close monitoring of the developments with the plot. However, according to an ABC Newsblog:

The investigation, which appears to have been ongoing for at least two years, was brought to a conclusion when one suspect was about to leave jurisdictions where U.S. authorities had the ability to monitor his activities. [This was probably the trip Kadir was rporetedly taking to Iran through Venezuela, to attend a religious conference.]

Sources said the plotters had "indirect" links to overseas terror elements, and the plot had links to Guyana, Trinidad and possibly Germany.

In short, while this group may not have been capable of carrying out the mission, they were in a credible position to contact those who would definitely have been able to move from conception and scouting, to execution, and that in a context where the ability to track developments would vanish. So they closed in.

Now, too, for our purposes, the Caribbean connexions are interesting.

For instance, from the AP report, "Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of a Trinidadian radical Muslim group, Jamaat al Muslimeen"; which of course is the same group that tried to overthrow the Trinidad Government in 1990. So, most [possibly all] of the core group are Afro-Caribbean Muslims. Even more interestingly, as the ABC newsblog report also observes:
FBI agents feared but never confirmed the three men accused of plotting to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York were linked to one of the most wanted al Qaeda leaders, Adnan Shukrijumah, known to have operated out of Guyana and Trinidad.

Officials tell the Blotter on that they heard repeated references to "Adnan" during the extensive wiretaps conducted on the suspects' telephone conversations, including calls to Guyana and Trinidad.

El Shukrijumah is an ethnic Indian Muslim native of Guyana, believed to be a dangerous Al Qaeda operative, whose job for that organisation may be to carry out further attacks in the Western hemishpere, especially against the United States. According to the ABC Newsblog, also, "[s]ome of the 9/ll hijackers attended a south Florida mosque run by Shukrijumah's now deceased father."

In short, we are beginning to see more and more of a link between certain factions in the Caribbean Islamic community and Islamist extremism and even terrorism. In short, Richard Reid the shoe bomber, Jerome Lindsey the Kings Cross Station suicide attacker, and Trevor William Forest [aka
Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal] are not isolated individuals; they show an emerging, sad trend that should be of concern to all peace-loving people in the Caribbean, most notably among the vast majority of our region's Muslims.

That is a major, sobering take-home lesson indeed.

It also means that we the people of the Caribbean are no longer isolated from the recent developments on the world stage, and so we must now be vigilant and alert to understand and address this problem with its dangerous potential implications, before it spins out of control. In that process, the best thing would be for the leaders of the Islamic communities across our region to publicly draw the line against violence and terrorism, and to then actively work with the region's security services and the wider public to see to it that such does not happen.

So, let us pray, let us discuss, and let us act, with vigilance, responsibility, respect for all, and diligence. For, lives
could depend on it. END

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