By Jasminee Sahoye
A Trinidadian man who bears a striking resemblance to a man in a photo believed to have links to ISIS is speaking out for the first time since a story was published in the Trinidad Express and other Caribbean newspapers a few days ago.
Ashmeed Mohammed, who was visiting his sick mother and only brother in Canada, and later went on to visit his in-laws in Morroco with his family, told The Camera minutes before leaving Toronto to head back home to Trinidad, that he fears for his life as he understands Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement officials have been looking for him.
“When I look at it (the photo) carefully, it looks as if they cut out my head and pasted because the man who is holding the gun, he looks almost 95% like me, he’s looking almost like me,” Mohammed said minutes before leaving Toronto for Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
The Express newspaper quoted an article dated Sept. 16 on the New York Post website about a Syrian warplane that had been shot down by Islamic militants. The article had accompanying photographs. One photograph, labelled “Islamic State militants hold up pieces of the wreckage”, shows several men holding up pieces of the plane.
The Express says one of the men prominently holding an automatic weapon, “according to well-placed sources, appears to be Ashmead Mohammed.”
The article states law enforcement sources in T&T said “based on information they had received, Mohammed had travelled to Syria earlier this year to join ISIS.”
In addition, in 2011, Mohammed and a number of others were detained over an alleged plot to assassinate the prime minister of Trinidad and other government ministers. He was never charged and has sworn his innocence.
The businessman who resides in Rio Claro, Trinidad, and a father of two young children said in a telephone interview with The Camera that the Express story about ISIS and the photograph is erroneous.
“This is defamation of character and now they are painting a nasty picture for me and my family. ISIS is seen as the most evil people on the face of the earth at this point in time and you don’t want to link yourself with ISIS; and they are linking me now with the most evilest people that have come on the scene lately; chopping off people’s heads and doing all kinds of evil things and that just is really making me look bad and I don’t know what will happen to me when I get to Trinidad.”
He adds that he came to Canada to see his mother who was hospitalized here and his only brother and left for Morroco where he spent almost 28 days.
“I went to see my in-laws. My wife is from Morroco and we have two children … and it’s the first time the in-laws were getting to see their grandchildren.”
Asked what evidence he has to prove his innocence, Mohammed says, “I have my passport, my Canadian passport to show the date and time I travelled across Europe. I have my passport that was stamped in Italy. I have tickets I bought in Morroco flying from one city to the next.
“I have my passport stamped in Amsterdam when I was coming back, so I have plenty of evidence; I have boarding passes. They have cameras in the airports and it’s not possible to get into Syria and pose with those guys and come back out,” he said with a chuckle.
Mohammed is now back in Trinidad. He told The Camera from his home that he and his wife were “pulled in and interviewed separately for about two and half hours.” He says the authorities were satisfied that he provided evidence to show the man in the photo is not him and it was a case of mistaken identity.
However, he says he will be getting advice from a lawyer on how to deal with the media outlet that ran the story saying he “wants to set the record straight and to show how easy innocent people could be framed.”