4th Terror suspect surrenders in Trinidad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad - A fourth suspect in an alleged plot to attack New York's John F. Kennedy Airport surrendered Tuesday in Trinidad as some U.S. authorities raised concerns that deep social inequality in the Caribbean could make the islands a fertile recruiting ground for radical Islam.

Abdel Nur, a Guyanese national accused of seeking support for the alleged plot from the leader of a radical Muslim group in Trinidad, smiled as he turned himself in at a police station outside the capital Port-of-Spain.

The details emerging about Nur and the other suspected plotters have given rise to concerns plot that bitter social divides in the Caribbean, where many Muslims live in shacks just blocks from gleaming skyscrapers, could foster anti-American sentiment and Islamic extremism.

The 57-year-old Nur worked odd jobs at a currency exchange house and lived in a poor neighborhood back in Guyana.

"This is a conspiracy," he told reporters with a smile as he entered a courthouse later Tuesday.

Nur and three others are alleged to have been planning to blow up fuel pipelines that feed the New York airport. Two of the other suspects are also in custody in Trinidad, following their arrests there on Friday.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly spoke of a potential Caribbean threat when he disclosed the alleged plot.

"This is an area in which we have growing concern and I think requires a lot more focus," Kelly said.

Though the Caribbean is largely known as a tourist paradise, the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of about 1.3 million, stands out as an exception: It is the most industrialized nation in the region and the largest supplier of liquid natural gas to the United States. The capital seems to have sprouted skyscrapers in recent years, thanks to the natural gas boom.

The country has good relations with the United States and Nur's surrender won Trinidad praise from the FBI.

"I am confident that the pressure brought to bear by the Trinidadian police authorities contributed to his surrender," said Mark Mershon, the head of the FBI in New York. "We are very grateful for their tremendous cooperation in this investigation."

Trinidad, which is about 6 percent Muslim, is home to Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical group that staged the only Islamic revolt in the Western Hemisphere, a deadly 1990 coup attempt sparked by still unresolved land claims.

Nur allegedly met with the group's leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, in an unsuccessful effort to get support for the airport attack. Abu Bakr told The Associated Press on Monday that his group had no connection the New York plot.

Trinidad is not a hotbed of anti-Americanism — in fact, its U.S. ties are substantial and growing: About 20,000 U.S. citizens visit the islands each year for tourism and business and about 4,600 claim residency in the country, according to the State Department. The U.S. in turn is home to thousands of people of Trinidadian descent.

Still, it is not hard to find resentment among poorer residents of Port-of-Spain. Some in the capital say the U.S. shares blame with the Trinidadian government for poverty that lingers despite an economy that grew 12 percent last year.

"All America wants to do is dominate," said house cleaner Alistair Augustine, voicing a sentiment that is common in the working class neighborhoods on the capital's west side. A Muslim convert, Augustine attends a small, one-story mosque in the island nation, which is home to about 80,000 Muslims.

Such social discontent could make people in the region vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists outside the region, said Anthony Bryan, a senior associate at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It would have to be considered, because many of the cells are now global," Bryan said.

Mike Ackerman, a former CIA terrorism expert, said Caribbean natives have been involved in terrorism — including Jamaican-born London transit bomber Jermaine Lindsay — but only after they were exposed to radical Islam elsewhere.

In addition to Nur, Trinidadian authorities are holding two suspects in the New York plot: Abdul Kadir, the former Guyanese lawmaker, and Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad. They are fighting extradition to the United States.

The other named suspect, Russell Defreitas, is former JFK air cargo employee who was arrested in New York. He is a U.S. citizen native to Guyana, a former Dutch and British colony on the northern coast of South America.

Huda Ibrahim, a daughter of the one Trinidadian suspect, denied that her father or Kadir had any role in the alleged airport plot. She read a statement to reporters she said was written on behalf of the local Shiite Muslim community, saying the two men are "absolutely innocent." The community deplores the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks "as much as we deplore the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki," she said.


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