Sunday 26 May, 2019

US embassy: Official did not lobby for ISIS recruits to return to T&T

From left to right:  Leader of the Opposition Representative Senator Wade Mark, U.S. Department of State Office of Countering Violent Extremism Director Irfan Saeed, Ministry of Social Development Representative Anne-Merie Quammie-Alleyne, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer AJ Jagelski at the US Embassy’s “SafeCommuniTT” Symposium held on June 25.

From left to right: Leader of the Opposition Representative Senator Wade Mark, U.S. Department of State Office of Countering Violent Extremism Director Irfan Saeed, Ministry of Social Development Representative Anne-Merie Quammie-Alleyne, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer AJ Jagelski at the US Embassy’s “SafeCommuniTT” Symposium held on June 25.

The US embassy in Trinidad and Tobago is denying reports that the Director for the Office of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) at the US Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism, Irfan Saeed, visited Trinidad to lobby the Government to allow citizens who travelled to ISIS conflict zones in the Middle East, in particular women and children, to return home if they desire.

In an email sent by Press Specialist of the Public Affairs Section of the US embassy, Charleen Thomas said contrary to local media reports, Saeed was in Trinidad for a different purpose.

"Just a note for your information, some media houses are reporting Irfan Saeed – Director for the Office of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, U.S. Department of State – was in Trinidad to lobby government to allow T&T citizens to return home from terrorist conflict zones."

"This is not correct."

She said in fact, Saeed was in Trinidad to attend the U.S. Embassy’s CVE symposium.

The Press Secretary added that Saeed, in his remarks, acknowledged the importance of strengthening legislation such as Trinidad and Tobago’s Anti-Terrorism Act as a crucial step to bolster regional security.

Saeed was speaking when he addressed the Embassy’s “SafeCommuniTT” Symposium on June 25 at the Banquet and Conference Center, Fiesta Plaza, Movietowne.

He reportedly said that Trinidad and Tobago is a model for the global community in building strong, resilient communities in the fight against violent extremism because of the strong partnerships between government, civil society, academics and religious groups. 

“What I’ve seen here in Trinidad and Tobago is amazing work by communities really trying to understand this issue and respond to it. The government is very engaged, not just with us but other global partners and communities here so that they can learn what this legal framework should look like (to fight terrorism),” said Saeed.

Per capita, more citizens from Trinidad and Tobago have travelled to the Middle East to join ISIS than any other country in the Western Hemisphere. With the fall of ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) recruitment has diminished, however, continuing radicalization in T&T and the threat of returning FTFs has made CVE a U.S. government focus and one of the U.S. Embassy’s top priorities.

The Government of the United States is also working closely with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to protect citizens of both of our countries from terrorism.  The United States Government views the passage of amendments strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s Anti-Terrorism Act as a crucial step to bolster regional security.

 

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