Friday, June 25, 2004

Ja: Terrorism can bite you in the arse, it's not just a U.S. problem

WESTERN BUREAU - An American expert on international terrorism has warned Jamaica that the country's extensive network of gangs and criminals could be exploited by terrorists, who could find them a cheap source for doing their dirty work.

"I think the primary issue for Jamaica remains confronting its crime problem effectively so the terrorists have less (fruitful) ground to exploit," said Stephen Flynn, a retired US Coast Guard Commander who is now an international consultant on terrorism.

Flynn is this week participating in a conference in Montego Bay of air and seaport security officials and spoke to the Observer after a presentation to the closed-door meeting.

While Jamaica may be under no immediate, or direct, threat from terrorists, Flynn warned, the island's proximity to the United States, and particularly Miami, made the country a potential staging point for terrorists who want to hit the US or American interests.

Such an event could be catastrophic for both the United States and Jamaica or other Caribbean countries that may be involved, he said.

"If a terrorist event happens in the United States that originates from the Caribbean, then our (the US') response is likely to be to close down our trade/commercial relations with the Caribbean, certainly for a period of time," said Flynn who worked as consultant on homeland security on the US commission on national security that was co-chaired by former Congressmen Gary Hart and Warren Rudman.

"It would have a huge impact on tourism (and) it would have a very disabling effect on any export industry," he added.

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