After three years of little or no information on the whereabouts of his daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren who travelled to war-torn Syria, allegedly to join the Islamic State (Isis) terror group, Imam Nazim Mohammed, head of the Masjid Umar Ibn Khattab Jamaat in Rio Claro, south Trinidad, got some good news last week.
It came in the form of a handwritten letter from his daughter who told him she is doing well in her new home in Iraq where she had settled with her husband and three teenaged children after moving there from Syria.
The family left their home in Princes Town in 2015 to go Syria where the Isis group operates. Mohammed, 75, said he was surprised to hear that they are now living in Iraq.
Yesterday, an Iraqi court sentenced 16 Turkish women to death by hanging for joining the Islamic State group. Iraq declared victory over Isis in December reclaiming key territories after the terror group seized control of nearly a third of the country in 2014.
Mohammed said he was relieved to find out his daughter and her family are alive and safe.
“Since she left I have had no communication with her for about three years. When I received the letter I was overjoyed to know that everything is okay. The letter did not have much details. All it stated that she was now in Iraq and is well. That is all I know. I have not communicated with them directly,” he said.
In a 2016 interview with the Sunday Guardian, Mohammed revealed that his daughter never told him she was leaving T&T with her family.
At that time, Mohammed, was accused of being an Isis recruiter, which he denied. Although he admitted that the family had migrated to join Isis, he said then he could not say if they were part of the radical group and withheld their identities and ages.
There are reports that more than 105 men, women and children from this country travelled to Syria between 2013 and 2015 to join Isis.
Mohammed told the T&T Guardian yesterday: “When my daughter arrived in Syria she telephoned to say she was safe. That was the last we heard from her. I accepted this as a will and test of almighty Allah. We had no control over that.
“I have a strong belief in the life hereafter. Of course, as a father I miss her. It worries me but I keep faith and strength in Allah.”
He could not say whether the family wants to return home and how and why they shifted locations. He said the letter from his daughter was delivered by someone from the Red Cross in Venezuela with links to the Red Crescent in Iraq.
In 2009, Mohammed came under the surveillance when he was interviewed by FBI agents prior to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain. The agents wanted to know if he was a threat to then US president Barack Obama during his visit to T&T for that event.
Since then, he claims the mosque he heads in Rio Claro, which was established 28 years ago, has been regualrly under survellance by police and intelligence forces.