JENSEN LA VENDE
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams yesterday warned revellers to be vigilant as they partied and played mas as the threat to Carnival is still alive, following the arrests of seven men over the past two days.
Williams sought to assure the public that all is being done to avert the threat and police are working assiduously to capture all who may be involved.
“Yes! Carnival is still under threat but the police service is moving speedily to eliminate the threat,” Williams said at a media briefing, Police Administration Building, Port of Spain.
He described the threat as “unusual criminal acts of various forms including violence” but did not identify any particular location.
It was the second briefing held by the police since Thursday, when the first four suspects were arrested.
Williams encouraged revellers to enjoy the festivities while police work at eliminating the threat. He advised those participating in Carnival to be conscious of their environment and report any suspicious activity.
“Since the threat has been uncovered I can give the public the assurance that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service supported by our partner in the Defence Force will continue to be out in our numbers,” Williams said.
The Commissioner gave no details on the latest arrest of three men and did not say when or where they were held. He confirmed seven suspects were in custody. He said the suspects were all adults when asked about their ages and did not know if all were Muslims. During the course of their investigations, police searched two masjids, Williams confirmed. He said the arrests were not an attack on the Muslim community.
Asked if the police were looking for anyone else in relation to the threat, Williams said he could not say but added more arrests would be made once it became necessary. Williams said as the investigation continued, officers were constantly in contact with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Williams said the investigation was a “live one” and hoped to solve it in the shortest time.
He said, despite some media reports, the police had not unearthed any threat to any embassy or high commission.
Asked if the police received any assistance from international agencies, Williams said: “This investigation is fully led by the TTPS and we have not fully engaged any external agencies for extensive support.” He did say it was customary for the police to engage foreign agencies for assistance when needed.
“We have not had any US presence in our operation...When we have investigations we engage with all international agencies for referencing. We have allies and we do that. We will do that in this investigation.”
He said he would not comment on foreign media reports, among them CNN, which said US authorities were involved in uncovering the plot and in the arrests of the suspects.
Williams added that as the investigation continued the police would inform the public.
On Thursday four men, including the son of a radio personality, were detained after a series of raids across TT. Police said then that the men were held in relation to reports that they were seeking to disrupt Carnival.
While Williams has shied away from using the word terrorism, since the issue was raised on Thursday, three embassies, Canada, UK and US have issued advisories to their citizens.
TT has the highest recruitment rate for international terror group ISIS. In April last year, 12 people who had been detained in Turkey since 2015 returned to TT after being deported. In a special media briefing held then, Deputy Police Commissioner Wayne Dick said the local authorities had very little information on the reason for the detention of the 12, who were stopped from entering Turkey, a known port of entry into ISIS territory.
Shane Crawford, this country’s most talked about ISIS member, is one of some 150 locals who left the country to join the terrorist group and was killed following a US-led air strike in Syria two years ago. Crawford’s assets were also seized through new legislation which allows the State to seize the assets of any national deemed a terrorist. The Anti-Terrorism Bill 2018, which needs a special majority before it can be passed, has been sent to a joint select committee.