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Trinidadian Islamic State militant Shane Crawford put on US terror list

Crawford is one of more than 100 citizens of Trinidad and Tobago believed to have joined Islamic State group
An image of militants from Trinidad taken from IS's Dabiq magazine

An Islamic State (IS) group militant from Trinidad and Tobago has been placed on the United States terror list on Wednesday.

Shane Crawford, featured in a Middle East Eye investigation about Trinidadians going to Syria last year, is designated on a list of five individuals who, according to the US State Department, “have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism”. The list also includes Britain’s Anjem Choudary, El Shafee Elshiekh, Sami Bouras and Mark John Taylor.

Around 100 militants from Trinidad and Tobago have joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

Washington claims Crawford is fighting for IS and acting as an “English language propagandist” for the group.

Trinidad and Tobago authorities have also taken action to blacklist Crawford. The country's Attorney General Faris al-Rawi told Middle East Eye that “we have already taken steps on him” and a case will be in court on Friday morning for a “designation listing,” which will then allow for a forfeiture of assets belonging to Crawford.

“We are not napping,” al-Rawi said.

Responding to Crawford’s designation, Umar Abdullah, head of the Islamic Front of Trinidad and Tobago, a political Islamist group that has distanced itself from IS militants, said: “I am very curious to find out what was the mechanisms and criteria used in determining such and, more importantly, now that he has been officially placed on a list, what would be the reaction of our government and in particular the attorney general.

“I would, however, like to caution the AG to think carefully about his reaction and his statements, seeing that he has not been very good at this in the past. Any attempt to negatively affect the property or persons attached to Shane Crawford would be met with the strong opposition.”

Crawford first rose to notoriety in Trinidad and Tobago in 2011 when he was implicated in a plot to assassinate then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Crawford was never charged for the plot.

He fled to Syria in 2013 after taking part in a revenge killing.

Crawford featured in IS's Dabiq magazine under the name Abu Sa’ad al-Trinidadi

But Crawford hit the headlines again in 2016 when, in a lengthy interview in IS’s Dabiq magazine under the name Abu Sa’ad al-Trinidadi, he encouraged sympathisers back home to "attack the interests of the crusader coalition," including embassies, businesses and civilians.

"I also say to you, my brothers, that you now have a golden opportunity to do something that many of us here wish we could do right now. You have the ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood," he was quoted as saying.

The State Department designation will come as a surprise to those who know him, as reports emerged from IS-held territory in December that Crawford had been hit and possibly killed in a US drone attack.

Crawford is among more than 100 citizens of the country to have joined IS. With a population of just 1.3 million, the oil-rich nation is thought to have the highest number of citizens per capita to have left for Syria.

An unusually high number of other Trinidadians have also appeared in IS videos exhorting their fellow countrymen to join them.

Trinidad and Tobago has endured what has been termed the only Muslim-led uprising in the Western Hemisphere when in 1990 the Jamaat al-Muslimeen, a group inspired by the Black Power movement, stormed parliament and shot the prime minister. Order was restored after six days of chaos and looting.

The group responsible for the uprising told MEE last year that it was not attempting to impose an Islamic state on the country.

The US designation is a sign that the country is doubling-down on those who have left for Syria. Rawi has also increased the number of designated terrorists in the country to 333 from 80 over the last five months.

The country is still reeling from accusations made in February by Malcolm Nance, a commentator who asked on CNN why Trinidad and Tobago was not included in Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Trinidad’s stream of fighters to Syria was also high on the agenda when Prime Minister Keith Rowley spoke to Trump in late February.

Crawford joins the likes of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of IS, and Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. US citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the men, while their property and interests subject to American jurisdiction are frozen.

But Crawford is not the first Trinidad and Tobago national to be designated as a terrorist by the US government.

In 2011, Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim was convicted in a US federal court for conspiring to attack the John F Kennedy airport.