5 Trinis underwent military training
By Azard Ali Friday, April 4 2014
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FREE THEM: A Muslim man carries a sign with the message "Free Our Brothers" as relatives and friends of eight men detained in Caracas staged a silent ...
FIVE Trinidadians holed up in a Venezuelan jail on suspicion of terrorist activities were undergoing military training there and were planning to travel to war-stricken Syria en route to Saudi Arabia.
Local intelligence sources told the Newsday yesterday that the Service Bolivariano of National Intelligence in Caracas were tipped off about the men’s training and began to keep them under surveillance. An article appearing in a Venezuelan newspaper El Universal on March 27, about the men’s detention, stated three Venezuelan police officers named as, Rafael José Durán, José Gregorio Socorro Montañez and Fery Hernán Molina, had been providing military training for some local Trinidadian Muslims.
The local intelligence source told the Newsday yesterday the three local imams who have also been detained, Imam Hamza Mohammed, Imam Abdul Salaam and Sheikh Hamid Hassan, were unknown to the five from Trinidad. Speaking to Newsday anonymously, the source said the five Muslims attempted to leave Caracas for Saudi Arabia sometime last week when they realised they were under intelligence surveillance by the Caracas authorities. “Coincidently, the three imams were at a hotel in Caracas at the time conducting legitimate business of securing visas for a group of Trinidadians to perform Umrah (small hajj), and they were approached by the five, who presented their passports to them. The five requested the imams’ assistance in securing Saudi visas for them (five) as well. That is how the imams got grouped in with the five, because, they were meeting and greeting as muslims usually do.”
The intelligence source told the Newsday that officers of the Service Bolivariano of National Intelligence who had been keeping watch on the five, also began to monitor the movements of imams Mohammed, Salaam and Hassan.
Officers of the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Status of foreigners then arrived at the hotel last week and confronted the five local Muslims who were staying in rooms at the hotel. But, the source said, the imams were guests at the hotel in separate rooms.
But in the rooms occupied by the other group of muslims, the source said, the officers found portable computers, cellular phones equipped with statelite, military clothing. The source told Newsday the men were arrested along with three Venezuelan police officers. This was confirmed by the Venezuelan newspaper article which stated, “Supposedly, three police officers were training the Trinitarios in the handling of firearms of different calibers, which would have been facilitated by Durán and Montañez and Molina.”
Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall who heads the National Security Opera-
tions and who led a delegation to Caracas last week to secure release of the men, said in a CNC 3 talk show yesterday morning that the three imams “happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Kelshall said, “But at least three of the men who were held and detained, were under local intelligence radar.”
Kelshall said evidence was found to implicate the five men (not the imams).
The five men were due to appear before a judge yesterday, but reports indicate there was no court hearing.
Kelshall said Gov-
ernment’s official delegation requested the tribunal treat the imams with leniency because they were there trying to get people to go to hajj (pilgrimage). While the three imams were there to sort out visa issues, Kelshall said the story of the other five men was that they were also there for visas for hajj. “So you see how complicated it is? Their story is they were there with the imams to get visas to go to hajj.”