Guyana Dismayed Over Ties to JFK Terrorism Plot

Isha Abdul Kadir, 56, wife of Abdul Kadir.

hide captionIsha Abdul Kadir, 56, is the wife of Abdul Kadir, an ex-member of Parliament in Guyana charged in the plot to destroy buildings and fuel pipelines at JFK International Airport.

The alleged plot to destroy buildings and fuel infrastructure at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has raised concerns that the Caribbean could present new fronts in Islamic extremism.

Nowhere is the dismay stronger than in Guyana — three of the four suspects are natives of the small Caribbean-coast country that has a fusion of religions. More than half of Guyana's population is Christian; about one-quarter is Hindu, mostly in the considerable Indian community; and about 10 percent is Muslim.

Guyana's Speaker of the Parliament, Ralph Ramdarran, said many are "cringing" at his nation's return to world headlines years after the 1978 Jonestown mass-suicide led by cult leader Jim Jones.

He said "this just came like a bolt out of the blue."

While Guyana has a history of vivid politics, it has been spared the sort of violent Islamic extremism that has troubled its neighbor, Trinidad. There, the radical group Jammat al Muslimeen attempted a coup in 1990 that ended with the deaths of 24 people.

Prosecutors in the United States said that one of the accused Guyanese, Abdul Kadir, is an associate of Jamaat al Muslimeen. The group's leader, however, has disavowed any knowledge of the JFK plot.

The indictment gives few details on the purported links, but Kadir stands out as much for who he is as for what he is alleged to have done: He was a municipal mayor in the 1990s, and in 2006 he ended a five-year term as a parliamentarian in Guyana's National Assembly.

"He was a warm and friendly person, always smiling," said Ramdarran, who described Kadir as "militant and strong in terms of his politics."

"That is not unusual in Guyana," Ramdarran added. "But no one was of the view that he was militant in his Islam to the extent that he would want to do anything like this."

No one sounds more baffled than his family members about the idea of Kadir having a hidden side. Wife Isha Abdul Kadir is enraged by the allegations that her husband, a civil engineer by profession, helped hatch a terrorism plot against the United States, the country some members of her family have adopted as their home.

"Our families are there, working very hard to help families here. So we see the United States like a big brother, and we respect the people of the United States," she said.

Isha said she and her husband converted to Islam in the early 1970s, attracted to its message of peace and comprehensive approach to life. But life has been fraught with difficulties, like the lack of jobs in their neglected mining town, Linden.

She said the idea that there was time to plot an elaborate attack on the U.S. is absurd: "Survival is our problem in Guyana! We have to hustle to survive. To even think about getting involved in such activities – it's not compatible, it wouldn't work."

Isha said she suspects her family's association with Iran – a son and daughter studied there — has brought the law down on her husband. She said her husband was headed for a spiritual conference in Iran when police took him off the plane in Trinidad late last week.

Jem Pollard, who owns a diner in Linden, worries about the negative impact the alleged JFK plot will have on ordinary Guyanese like her, anticipating that they'll have a tougher time when applying for U.S. visas.

"I mean, it's very unfair. The innocents are paying for the guilty," she said.

Prosecutors allege that Kadir used his connections to present the plot to the leadership of the closely watched Jamaat al Muslimeen. The complaint also states that in discussing the plan with his co-accused, Kadir stressed the goal of causing economic damage and suggested minimizing the killing of innocent men and women.

Speaker Ramdarran acknowledged that the specificity of the indictment lends it weight.

"One cannot help but noting the allegations are very detailed, very serious and very specific," he said.

Lawyers for Kadir say he will fight extradition to the United States. The government of Guyana, meanwhile, has pledged to cooperate fully with Washington in investigating the alleged plot that has embroiled three of its citizens.

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