The Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt was an attempt to overthrow the government of Trinidad and Tobago, instigated on Friday, 27 July 1990. Over the course of six days, Jamaat al Muslimeen, a Muslim organization, held hostages (including Prime Minister A. N. R. Robinson and other government officials) at the Red House and at the headquarters of Trinidad and Tobago Television. On 1 August, the insurgents surrendered.


In 1988, police raided the commune of Jamaat al Muslimeen, a Muslim organisation led by Yasin Abu Bakr, seizing weapons and ammunition and arresting 34 members. The members were charged with larceny, robbery, illegal possession of weapons, rape and murder. This event led members of Jamaat al Muslimeen to believe that the government was being oppressive and had illegally occupied their land. Before the coup, Abu Bakr was arrested several times on charges of contempt of court and illegal demonstrations.[1]

According to an interview by former minister of communications Gerald Hadeed, two days before the coup attempt, prime minister Robinson was warned that there might be an attempt to overthrow his government on that day and he was asked to have the scheduled sitting postponed. Robinson declined, however, claiming that he had taken an oath of office and he would not deviate from it in front of a potential threat.[2]

Coup attempt

On Friday 27 July 1990, 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen attempted to stage a coup against the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Forty-two insurgents stormed The Red House, the seat of Parliament, and took Robinson and most of his cabinet hostage, while seventy-two of their accomplices attacked the offices of Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), the only television station in the country at that time, and the Trinidad Broadcasting Company, then one of only two radio stations in the country at 7:30 AM. At 6:00 pm, Yasin Abu Bakr appeared on television and announced that the government had been overthrown and that he was negotiating with the army. He called for calm and said that there should be no looting.

Robinson was beaten, degraded and shot in the lower right leg when he tried to order the army to attack the militants. The army and the police responded by sealing off the area around the Red House. Widespread looting and arson took place in Port of Spain and other parts of the East-West Corridor, but the remainder of the country was calm. American Airlines and British Airways cancelled all flights to the capital city.[1] A state of emergency was declared by acting president Emmanuel Carter and martial law was imposed. Several cabinet members who had not been present in the Red House at the time of the attack set up office in the Trinidad Hilton. On the night of 27 July, the army took control of the TTT transmitter on Cumberland Hill, thus taking TTT off the air. After six days of negotiation, the Muslimeen surrendered on 1 August and were taken into custody. They were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released. The Privy Council later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.[3]


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Social unrest in Trinidad and Tobago
Spanish Trinidad (pre-1797)
Arena Massacre
British Colonization
Hosay Massacre - Canboulay Riots
1903 water riots - Labour riots of 1937
Post-independence (from 1962)
Black Power Revolution
Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt

About 24 people died during the coup attempt, with millions in property losses. Among the dead was member of parliament for Diego Martin Central, Leo Des Vignes. Many people saw the coup attempt as the end of the power of the National Alliance for Reconstruction government.[3]

In late July or early August 2010, the court ruled that many properties owned by the Jamaat would be sold to make up for the cost of the destruction of buildings in the coup attempt. An inquiry was formally launched in 2010. On 13 March 2014, the final report[4] was presented to President Anthony Carmona.[5]

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Trinidadian police raided three mosques but no weapons were found. On 22 September, Abu Bakr was detained and questioned for two hours at London's Heathrow airport while in route to an Islamic conference in Libya. Trinidadian police accused the group of receiving money and training from Libya and Sudan. In the same year, Florida police uncovered a plot to smuggle 60 rifles and 10 submachine guns to the Jamaat in Trinidad.[6]

On 16 May 2014, rumours of a new attempt to overthrow the Trinidadian government surfaced. Jamaat al Muslimeen was once more blamed for the incident.[7] The rumours stemmed from a prank phone call and were quickly spread through social media. Small scale panic ensued, with citizens, including government staff, leaving Port of Spain. The rumour was later officially refuted by communications minister Vasant Bharath.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Attempted Coup in Trinidad". www.terrorism.com. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Hadeed: I warned Robinson about 1990 coup attempt". Trinidad Express. 6 April 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Robert Walker (3 June 2007). "Profile: Jamaat al Muslimeen". BBC News. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "President gets final coup report today". Trinidad Guardian. 13 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Report of the Commission of Enquiry" (PDF). Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Angela Potter (1 November 2001). "Trinidad Muslims Being Closely Monitored". Canarsie Courier. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Rumours of attempted T&T coup 'stemmed from prank phone call'". Jamaica Observer. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "Rumours of attempted T&T coup cause panic". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 

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