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TOP GENERAL: The Number Of Islamic Extremists In The Caribbean Is Growing

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Gen. John Kelly of the U.S. Southern Command

WASHINGTON – The number of Islamic extremists in the Caribbean intent on attacking Western targets has crept upward in the last year, the U.S. general overseeing security in Latin and South America said Friday.

These would-be attackers largely come from former British colonies within the Caribbean and along its rim, and at least a few have been killed fighting for the Islamic State group, said Marine Gen. John Kelly, a storied combat commander in Iraq who will retire from his final military position later this month.

Kelly has seen a shift in extremist leaders’ rhetoric toward these few “very, very radical mosques” to direct their attacks from their homes, rather than attempt the increasingly difficult journey to Iraq or Syria.

“It seems like the Islamic extremists and terrorists have shifted a lot of their message,” Kelly told reporters at the Pentagon in what will likely be his last public briefing. “‘Why don’t you just stay at home and do a San Bernardino, or do Boston, or do Fort Hood?’”

He estimated roughly 150 radicals have attempted to join the Islamic State group as of this year, up from his estimate last year of roughly 100.

Kelly told Congress last year those who succeed in reaching Islamic State group territory “get good at killing and pick up some job skills,” such as working with explosives and beheading enemy fighters for propaganda purposes. He added, “if they went over radicalized, one would expect they’d come back at least that radicalized.”

The security problem is compounded by the limited resources of these countries, such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname, which don’t have organizations comparable to the America’s military, or its Transportation Safety Administration.

“Even just a few of these nuts can cause an awful lot of trouble down in the Caribbean because [those countries] don’t have an FBI, they don’t have law enforcement like we do. And many of these countries have very, very small militaries – if they have militaries at all,” he said Friday.

Security experts for the region have previously told U.S. News about their concerns that extremists could exploit those countries’ relatively open borders with nations like the U.S. or Canada and of worries about an attack within the Caribbean against Westerners.

More than 7 million Americans visited the Caribbean in 2014, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce. A further 3 million traveled to Central America and 2 million went to South America.

islamic extemism

ISIS has issued a call to Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago to rise up.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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