Monday, June 18, 2007
FOCUS ON THE CARIBBEAN
The discovery and dismantling of a plot to attack New York’s JFK airport is only the latest reminder of the growing jihadist threat around us. That the JFK plot had not yet left the planning stage after a year of activity should not suggest that it was not serious. Among the hallmarks of Islamist plots are that the enemy has enormous patience, and that they plan and practice for far longer than we might consider reasonable in order to ensure a successful mission. The cell may not have been as small as it at first seemed, but this remains to be proven. However, the existence of cells like this one throughout the United State underscores the need for Americans to wake up to a dangerous reality.
In this case, the four individuals involved appear to have had close ties to one of the terrorist networks in the Caribbean. There is no dearth of these. Al Qaeda, Darul Uloom, Jammat Islamiyah, and Hezbollah are all known to be active throughout the Caribbean, as well as in Central and South America. In the world of terrorism, international boundaries do not represent acceptable limitation of activity or goals. They are simply inconvenient impediments to be overcome. There is therefore a strong likelihood that further investigation will show that the individuals involved in this plot were part of a far-reaching network that transcended international constraints with known terrorist links in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the United States, and beyond.
The links between the JFK plotters and Trinidad/Tobago and Guyana are not surprising. The Caribbean region, with its proximity to Venezuela and Colombia, has long been a playground for terrorist organizations whose strategic goal is the global dominance of radical Islam. The Caribbean has provided a convenient nexus for the mutual interests of drugs, organized crime, and terrorism, and radical Islamist groups and their activities are growing in numbers and strength. The combination of evolving strategies for global terrorist groups and the laid-back culture of the islands have made the region an attractive place for cottage industries in document forgery, money laundering, drug dealing, and human trafficking, and these islands, with their friendly relations with America, give relatively easy access to the United States.
The Link to Shukrijumah
The possible connection between the JFK plotters and Adnan al-Shukrijuma is ominous. Shukrijuma is considered to be a dangerous and elusive agent of al Qaeda. His aim to attack the United States with a nuclear or radioactive device has caused the FBI to put a $5 million reward on his head. They have dubbed him “the next Mohammed Atta”.
Known as an expert bomb maker, he is a master of disguise who seems to appear and disappear at will and has eluded capture for many years. His last reported sighting was on October 30, 2006 on the McMaster University campus in Hamilton, Ontario, where he had spent considerable time in 2003. His mission at the time, according to Dr Paul Williams, who has done extensive research on his activities there, was to steal 180 pounds of nuclear material from the McMaster nuclear reactor that is situated on the campus.
Shukrijuma’s connections to both Trinidad/Tobago and Guyana make his possible association with the JFK plot more than a little coincidental. He is known to be travel under multiple identities, and may be carrying multiple passports from Guyana, where he grew up, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada. Over the last few years, he has been sighted at various times in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Honduras, and Mexico, and in various spots throughout the United States and Canada. He was reported to be in Trinidad for several months, where he claimed to be working on the construction site of the new Atlantic LNG Train 4 facility in Trinidad. During that period, he stayed at a prominent hotel in Point Fortin, until he realized that the FBI was looking for him. He then left the country via boat to South America.
More recently, in relation to the latest plot, a New York Post article quoted a law enforcement officer, who said, "We thought he could be the invisible hand. He's always in the shadows, particularly in [the Caribbean]. He's passed through it, he's known.”
In 2004, a spokesman for the FBI in El Paso called him “one of the most dangerous cell leaders below the leadership of al-Qaeda who plans to hurt the United States.” Officials suspected that Shukrijumah was using immigrant-smuggling routes through Central America and Mexico to get to the border.
If the men who were working on the JFK plot were indeed connected with Shukrijuma, however peripherally, the implications are even greater that al Qaeda was involved in the plot, and that the consequences, had it been carried out, would have been devastating.
Connecting the Dots
There also appears to be evidence that the men arrested in the JFK plot were associated with the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical Islamist group in Trinidad best known for their bloody takeover of the Trinidad parliament in 1990. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these groups are collaborating with others when their jihadist missions coincide. Our sources tell us that there may be a link between Darul Uloom, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, and Al Qaeda, but that it is a hidden one. They further suggest that Darul Ulom of Trinidad and Tobago is an even more dangerous organization than Jamaat al-Muslimeen. They follow the radical Deobandi ideology, which represents the most extreme forms of Islamist belief (the Taliban are among their most devoted adherents). Shukrijumah has been closely linked to Darul Uloom, which has branches in the Pakistan, the UK, Trinidad, and closer to home, Canada and the United States (including Florida, Illinois, and Georgia).
Although more than a few terrorist plots have been thwarted by our federal and local law enforcement agencies (such as the planned attacks against Fort Dix, the Manhattan tunnels, and Miami), the proliferation of Islamist radicalism in the United States should alarm us all. As the details of this last plot unfold, it will be necessary to also take a hard look at our policies at the national and local levels that makes the development of terrorism within our own country not only possible, but comparatively easy.
DANGEROUS SIGNS FROM MOSCOW
Putin’s latest sabre-rattling against America and Europe points to increasing signs of paranoia on the part of the Russian premier. His most recent threat to aim nuclear warheads at European cities, in response to America’s missile defence shield, is an inappropriate and exaggerated reaction. Even a brief look at recent events in Russia will find Putin closing his circle of advisors, imposing increasing limitations on its democratic institutions, and, despite his assurances that he will be stepping down at the end of his term, stronger signs that will ensure his job security for the future. (See coming issue for in-depth analysis)
OVERLOOKED THREAT TO AVIATION SECURITY
The communications disruption at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport last week due to pirate radio transmissions that jammed air traffic communications and endangered takeoffs and landings should give us all pause. The culprit was an illegal radio station operating out of the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, which caused interference in communications between the airport's control tower and both inbound and outbound airplanes. The consequences could have been disastrous. Although the rogue station was found and closed down, further interference was experienced by the control tower. The implications are ominous and should be a warning to aviation around the world. Intentional interference by terrorists or rogue hackers could result in multiple, simultaneous mid-air collisions. The bad guys have discovered another method of committing mayhem by airplane and the lives of millions of travelers are at stake. There is now an urgent need to secure the airwaves used by our airports and the pilots who fly in and out of them. This warning should not go unheeded.
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