army truck with soldiers makes its way through Valencia after
a joint raid with police of 11 quarries in east Trinidad yesterday.
Twelve men who police believe are members of the Jamaat al
Muslimeen were arrested yesterday after a contingent of law
enforcement officers swooped down on illegal quarrying in
the Valencia forest, seizing excavators, bulldozers and other
Police said they raided 11 quarries, nine of which they claim
are connected to the Jamaat al Muslimeen.
The 12 men were charged last night with mining without a licence.
Eight are expected to appear in the Arima Magistrates Court
today, while the others are due to appear in the Sangre Grande
District Court on similar charges.
There have been reports for almost three years that men purporting
to be Muslimeen members were involved in illegal quarrying
in the Tapana Forest.
But last night, Annisa Abu Bakr, wife of imprisoned Jamaat
leader Yasin Abu Bakr, said in an interview that her husband
has had a valid quarry licence since the 1970s to operate
in Valencia, though not where the raids took place. She said
the people who were held in yesterdays exercise were
not Jamaat members.
Annisa, Bakrs first wife, said: My husband has
a lease for quarry facilities in Valencia but not where those
people were arrested. He has the lease to operate since in
the 1970s, and he pays his taxes and owes nothing on it.
Annisa said she was unaware of the details of her husbands
Acting imam of the Jamaat Kala Akii Bua said in an interview
that those arrested did not belong to his sect. He denied
his organisation was involved in illegal quarrying.
Akii Bua said the latest move was an attempt by the Government
to keep Bakr, his leader, out of the system for a while.
He said, The Jamaat has not been doing any quarrying;
that is not our concern.
Akii Buas sentiments were echoed by Khalil Saif, another
top-ranking Jamaat member. He said none of the arrested people
were Jamaat members. He also believes his organisation was
being set up by certain politicians.
Police sources said soldiers and police officers from the
Inter Agency Task Force and the Special Anti-Crime Unit, supported
by other divisions in army trucks, left Port-of-Spain for
Valencia in convoy style early yesterday.
A senior officer said the clampdown on the illegal quarrying
in Valencia had a been a burning issue that authorities wanted
to tackle for some time.
He said there were reports that those involved in the illegal
act were pocketing millions of dollars through their indiscriminate
activities, and that authorities were turning a blind eye
on the act.
There was also a report that illegal quarry operators were
raking in approximately $180,000 a week.
A police spokesman said on arrival in Valencia heavily-armed
soldiers and police officers surrounded the area, bringing
work at the quarries to a halt. Those found on the sites were
questioned and taken into custody as law officers began to
remove heavy equipment.
Police said several bulldozers, tractors, excavators and other
heavy machinery were seized and taken to Camp Cumuto pending
Officers said security would be beefed up at the Arima and
Sangre Grande magistrates court today when the 12 people appear
to answer the charges.