GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands, (PRNewswire via COMTEX) -- The Government of the Cayman Islands expresses its shock and sadness over the tragedy in the United States. It pledges to provide all possible assistance to both U.S. and international law enforcement to assist in the investigation of this terrorist attack on our friend and neighbour.
There have been questions relating to the presence of three persons alleging to be Afghan in the Cayman Islands and an anonymous letter about them and their activities. Attached is a copy of the letter.
On 22nd August 2000, three men claiming to be Afghan nationals reported that they were dropped off in the Cayman Islands, having arrived here by ship from Turkey. The Royal Cayman Islands Police (RCIP) detained them at the Central Police Station. The Immigration authorities conducted interviews with the individuals (with the assistance of a visiting Iranian doctor who was able to translate) in an attempt to establish their identities.
On 28th August 2000, the information was transmitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom (FCO). On 2nd October, the men were transferred to Northward Prison from the Central Police Station, where they had been in protective custody.
On 10th October, a further letter was sent to the FCO, indicating that the Government had considerable doubt concerning the account given by the men about their arrival in the Cayman Islands. It appeared likely that the men had arrived here on 20th August on a flight from Cuba using Pakistani passports. The Government questioned the validity of the Pakistani passports (which were never located), and the ultimate goal of the men concerning their presence in the Cayman Islands.
Since last year, the authorities have attempted to establish their identities. Interpol was contacted, but had no record of any of the individuals. Because the men claimed they had planned to go to Canada, a representative from the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica visited the Cayman Islands and met with the Chief Immigration Officer.
The Afghan authorities (in exile) in New York interviewed the men by telephone, and were satisfied that they were Afghan nationals. That office issued them temporary travel documents. These could not be used, as the individuals still required a visa from a country allowing the individuals entry. The men were asked to provide a list of people who might be able to verify their identities. The list was also passed on to the Afghan authorities in New York, but no response was made regarding the list.
Additional inquiries were made to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Neither responded. The British High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, has also been unable to secure cooperation from Pakistani authorities. The numbers of the passports believed to have been used by the individuals was recorded by Immigration, but no Pakistani authority has verified the numbers or provided any information about them.
Based on complaints from the detainees, and at the request of the Cayman Islands branch of the Red Cross, the three men were moved to a less secure area of the prison on 27th April 2001. On 5th June 2001, the Cayman Islands Grand Court ruled that the men should be released pending determination of their application for political asylum. In its ruling, the Court stated that "there is no evidence that they are a danger to the public and fears as to their possible links with a terrorist organization have long since been dispelled." However, the Court concurred with immigration authorities that their version of how they reached the Cayman Islands was not credible.
Following that decision, the men were accommodated in a guest house in Grand Cayman, and have been required to report to Immigration authorities and the RCIP on a daily basis. They have complied fully. Efforts have been ongoing to establish their identities and potential options for relocation in the event that their request for political asylum is unsuccessful.
In August of this year, a Chief Immigration Officer from the United Kingdom came to the Cayman Islands at the request and expense of the Cayman Islands government. The officer specializes in matters relating to Afghanistan and speaks Farsi. After interviewing the three men individually, the officer was satisfied that the men were indeed Afghan nationals. The officer did, however, state that she too was not satisfied with the Afghans' account of how they had arrived in the Cayman Islands.
On 29th August 2001, a letter was hand delivered by its author to Mr. Loxley Banks, the Director of Broadcasting of Radio Cayman. The letter was signed "a concerned Caymanian." The letter was incorrectly addressed to Mr. Joel Walton, who is not the host of "Talk Today." The host of that radio show is in fact Mr. Joel Francis. The letter was never read on the air, as Radio Cayman considered it speculative, and had heard similar allegations about the Afghans since their arrival.
Mr. Banks passed the letter to Acting Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks on 6th September. There had been numerous complaints about the continued presence of the Afghans in the Cayman Islands, and Mr. Ebanks also considered this to be speculative. He was aware that the Government had made attempts to establish the identity of the individuals, and that those efforts continued following the Court decision. The Acting Chief Secretary informed Mr. Banks that the letter writer was welcome to contact him directly to discuss the matter.
The person who wrote the anonymous letter did not contact the Acting Chief Secretary or any other Cayman Islands government or law enforcement official about the letter until 12th September, the day after the attack in the U.S. When formally interviewed that day by local authorities, the letter writer told them that the letter was "pure speculation" on his part. Following the horrific terrorist attack in the U.S., Chief Secretary James Ryan transmitted the information to Police Commissioner David Thursfield on 12th September.
The RCIP Commissioner was then in contact with the U.S. Consul on the Island and the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. Representatives of the U.S. Embassy arrived in Grand Cayman on the evening of 12th September and departed on the afternoon of 15th September. While in the Cayman Islands, the US authorities received complete cooperation. They were provided with all documents and relevant information regarding the case of the Afghan nationals with a view to briefing the relevant U.S. investigating authorities.
The three Afghans have been in protective custody since 11th September and are now in Northward Prison.
The Cayman Islands government has been actively cooperating with U.S. Embassy personnel, and will continue to do so. We welcome the presence of any and all international law enforcement authorities, for as long as necessary to resolve this matter. A copy of the letter follows:
Mr. Joel Walton
C/o Radio CaymanBR> Cayman Islands
Dear Mr. Walton,
I am a regular listener to your "Talk Today" program. I find it informative and a positive way of the citizens of this island expressing their views.
Mr. Walton we have an urgent situation with the three Afghanistans that we have in our midsts for the past months. I have been convinced that they are agents of Osama Bin Laden - one of the world's greatest terrorist - operating out of - you guessed it - Afghanistan. The three agents here are organizing a major terrorist act against the U.S. via an airline or airlines.
Their identity is difficult to establish for this reason. Why do you think they had funds on their persons when they were apprehended? Why do you think that their last country before they came to the Cayman Islands was Cuba?
I feel that the world will think this is the most unlikely place on Earth to launch an attack - the Cayman Islands. The agents are patiently organizing this attack while we fumble and stumble over the trivial thing as their identity.
These agents are allowing us to know just enough about them to keep on this Island to accomplish their mission. Remember this is probably the easiest and most informative place in this hemisphere to plan their attack.
Mr. Walton we need to pass this information immediately to the authorities and refrain from being naive and complacent in this serious situation.
A very concerned Caymanian
P.S. If we foil these agents' plans we may never know for sure why they are here, but if we allow this attack to be carried out this would be one of the greatest and most far reaching catastrophe for these Islands.