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May 03, 2016

For ISIS, an Island Getaway

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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, is looking “looking beyond the Middle East and Europe to recruit new members,” according to The Jerusalem Post (“Terrorism in the tropics: ISIS turning to recruitment in Caribbean,” May 2, 2016).

The Post noted reports that nearly 100 ISIS recruits came from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Island countries in the Indian Ocean, such as Maldives and Mauritius, also have been targeted by ISIS for recruitment.

According to a report in The Daily Star, a U.K. newspaper, a British diplomat named Arthur Snell stated that ISIS’ efforts at recruitment in the Caribbean could be successful. Snell claimed:

“Quite a lot of things that occur in jihadist groups elsewhere apply in Trinidad—people who are exposed to gang violence, broken homes, poor education opportunities, a lack of a sense of self-belonging.”

However, a 2015 report on ISIS recruitment in the Caribbean prompted former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton to warn of ideology as a motivating factor. Bolton told Fox News (“General: 100 Recruits Have Left Caribbean to Join ISIS in Syria," March 12, 2015), “If we don’t understand we’re fighting an ideology, we’re not going to understand its appeal, we’re not gonna be able to defend against it.”

Bolton’s comments were prompted by a March 12, 2015 article by Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe (“Islamic State could infiltrate U.S. through Caribbean and South America, general says”). Lamothe noted U.S. congressional testimony by Marine Gen. John F. Kelly on ISIS recruitment in the southern hemisphere. Kelly, then serving as the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that human smuggling networks are “so efficient that if a terrorist or almost anyone wants to get into our country, they just pay the fare.”

Gen. Kelly expressed concern that jihadists traveling to Syria from the Caribbean would acquire deadly skills that they could teach to others upon their return. Kelly warned, “the amount of movement…and the sophistication of the network overwhelms our ability to stop everything. So I think if [foreign fighters] get back to some of these countries that I’ve described, it’s pretty easy for them to move around.”

According to the Daily Mirror (“ISIS in Caribbean recruitment drive as idyllic holiday island popular with Brit holidaymakers ‘becomes jihadi hotspot,’” April 30, 2016), a British newspaper, concerns over jihadist activity in the Caribbean led to a government-sponsored telephone hotline being set up “to allow islanders to contact authorities if they believe someone is planning to make the journey” to ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East.

The Mirror reported that “Trinidad and Tobago’s government estimates that 89 of its citizens have left to join Islamic State, a higher figure per head of population than even Belgium has recorded.” The paper noted that four Trinidadian ISIS fighters were reportedly captured by Turkish security forces last year.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank, has noted that ISIS has increasingly come under pressure (“A Caliphate Under Strain,” CTC Sentinel, April 22, 2016). Al-Tamimi pointed out that coalition air strikes and the loss of territory has put constraints on the terror group’s “military, financial, administrative domain, forcing it to take measures to react and adopt.” As a result, ISIS has had problems retaining some of its fighters.

With recruitment in the southern hemisphere, ISIS may be looking to replenish losses.

Posted by SD at May 3, 2016 12:54 PM

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