Trinis in Jihadist training
Mark Bassant CCN Senior Multimedia Investigative Journalist
CELLPHONE images seized by SEBIN, Venezuela’s Intelligence Service, allegedly show some of the Trinidadian Muslims now detained in a Venezuelan jail on a firing range using high-powered weapons.
The images were allegedly extracted from the cellphones seized from some of the Muslims in the group after they were arrested in a raid at Plaza Hotel in Caracas on March 19, together with women and children who were later released.
The training SEBIN describes as “pre-jihad training” in a top secret document that was sent to the Trinidad and Tobago government and was exclusively obtained by CCN.
The training resembles what takes place in the Middle East as Muslims go through the rigours as they prepare for what they term Jihad.
Intense army, arms and ammunition training is part and parcel of their routine.
Some of this kind of training, Venezuela Intelligence Service — SEBIN alleges was taking place in Venezuela by some of the Trinidadian Muslims now incarcerated pending the outcome of a hearing of the Terrorism Tribunal court.
In the secret document prepared by SEBIN they allegedly uncovered pictures with members of Dominic Pitlal’s group on a firing range in Venezuela, which they say were taken by the three Venezuelan police officers who were later arrested as part of SEBIN’s investigation and hauled to the Terrorism Tribunal Court.
Men are seen firing at targets with firearms with electronic shooting ear muffs to block out the noise. There are at least six photographs showing the men.
In one photograph there is another of a man who bears a resemblance to Dominic Pitilal firing what looks like an automatic weapon on the range, and the person is circled in this photo, while another picture of him is taken from another angle
While another has the profile of someone looking like Asim Luqman standing on the range.
CCN spoke on Tuesday April 29 with both Luqman and Pitilal by phone at length, from Venezuela, both never denying that they were on the firing range.
However, Luqman said the truth was being twisted by SEBIN:
“I want to clear the air in regards to the police officers, we have a relationship with them importing plantains from Venezuela to Trinidad, we were on the range and other police were there with their families and we only went there once for a demonstration. To be honest none of us was shooting. They are trying to use us as scapegoats.”
Pitilal in his defence says, “They are saying we are jihadists and extremists, I want them to provide the evidence to show that.We are just being targeted because we are Muslims.”
Questioned about whether he might in fact be the person in the photograph Pitilal said,” I have never fired a gun.”
SEBIN in their secret document says “Pitilal and associates have caused several persons to further express and speak about rumours about pre-jihad training.”
SEBIN obtained a photograph which they indicated was discovered by Venezuelan authorities for training by Jihadists. There are white flags planted on the site with some of them displaying firearms and army helmets, white another shows a black rifle apparently gripped by two hands in a clenched fist.
Jihad, has its place in Islam, but its interpretation according to Islamic scholar Imam Sheraz Ali has been taken to the extreme in some cases.
“There is that misinterpretation amongst Muslims because sometimes when people read the verses of the Koran they interpret them to mean Jihad see qitaal (sic)-Jihad of fighting -when as I said it means all embracing and a struggle against you own desires that maybe prohibited by the creator.” he said.
The Imam explained that there is an internal and external struggle as it pertains to jihad.
“We have to remember this type of Jihad of fighting is when a person is being commanded to protect Islam, defend Islam, fight for Islam if people’s lives are being threatened. This kind of Jihad has to be something called as a Jihad first of all by the legit authorities, not every struggle is a Jihad,”he said.
Tomorrow Part 3 — The Syrian connection and more revelations about potential security threats to this country.