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Saturday 21 October 2017
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Prof Samaroo denies Prof Knight’s al-Qaeda cell claim

Prof Andy Knight.

Pure fiction.

This is how historian Prof Brinsley Samaroo yesterday described a claim made by University of Alabama international relations professor Andy Knight, in a recent interview, that he (Samaroo) led him to an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Trinidad, some 12 years ago.

“I was very surprised and shocked this morning (yesterday) when I was reading about this cell near to the airport. That is pure fiction,” an upset Samaroo said of Knight’s claim, which was contained in a story carried in yesterday’s Newsday.

Samaroo’s denial came amid a report in the Edmonton Journal which said Knight’s research on jihadi radicalism in TT is being used by the United Nations to develop a strategy to fight violent extremism.

According to the publication, Knight is reported to have said that Samaroo took him to an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in 2005 when he began to research jihadism in Trinidad during a conference on Free Trade in the Americas that he had organised in collaboration with the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies.

The Edmonton Journal reported that during the conference, Knight claimed that in a casual conversation with Samaroo, he mentioned the work he was doing on the recruitment of child soldiers in civil conflicts across Africa.

He claimed Samaroo subsequently asked him if he would like to see a jihadi sleeper cell, which was said to be located on a site close to the Piarco International Airport.

However, Samaroo yesterday made it clear there was no truth to Knight’s claim. “He fraudulently used my name as the person who provided information for his research which I didn’t. He mixed up his sources,” Samaroo said.

The historian said he has never spoken to Knight about the presence of a al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Piarco.

“I don’t know who else he spoke to and possibly somebody else might have told him about this cell near Piarco. But, I certainly didn’t and even up to today, I don’t know of any cell that exists up in that area.”

Samaroo further claimed Knight had used his name “because he wanted to get a contract with the United Nations to deal with terrorism. So that he had to build up a case that he was in Trinidad and he did research.”

“I suppose he thought my name, being professor, would enhance his CV. He wanted to prove to them that he had done a lot of work in Trinidad which I don’t think he did.”

Later, in a statement, Samaroo described Knight’s claim as ridiculous.

“I wish to state that whilst I had discussions with the professor, I never led him to any cell since I am not aware of the existence of an y such cell,” he said.

“Professor Knight has confused his sources. No doubt, he wanted to give credibility to his story by using my name but there is no truth to his claim.”

Up to press time, Knight had not responded to questions which Sunday Newsday emailed to him.

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