A battered and bruised Prime Minister A. N. R. Robinson made his first public appearance in a television interview broadcast Saturday and said that radical Muslim rebels who staged a coup attempt shot him as he lay on his stomach in the Parliament building calling for Trinidad forces to attack.
“I shouted, ‘Murderers! Torturers!’ and I called upon the forces outside to attack with full force,” he said in the interview taped Friday from his hospital bed. “And then it was while I was lying on my face, I was shot in the leg.”
Robinson was wounded a week ago Friday after the Muslim fundamentalist rebels led by Yasin abu Bakr stormed the country’s Parliament and state television station, taking more than 45 hostages in a bloody, five-day standoff. It ended Wednesday with the hostages’ release and the rebels’ unconditional surrender.
Looking tired and shaken and with bruises on his face, Robinson, 63, called on Trinidadians to keep the faith and thanked the nation and foreign heads of state who had expressed their solidarity and offered support.
“I am in good shape now,” Robinson said. “I know it has been a trying period, and even if we who were in the Red House (Parliament) were in pain, in my mind the welfare of the country was foremost.”
Robinson condemned the rebellion, saying the coup attempt was not a popular uprising and that he felt relief that the people rallied behind the government.
“The violent attack on Parliament is something absolutely new in our experience and in our view should never be allowed to happen again,” he said. “It was a violation of every code in civilized society and a throwback of 300 years.”
Robinson described the treatment he and about 17 other ministers and legislators received during the 91-hour stretch as hostages, saying he had no choice but to at least pretend to cooperate with rebel demands.
“We were humiliated, roughed-up, and we suffered extremely excruciating pain. I called on the forces outside to attack with all their resources, and that was when I was shot in the leg,” Robinson said.
On Friday, army troops and police searched the island, tracking down holdouts from the Muslim group, uncovering weapons and killing the rebel leader’s stepson in the mop-up operation.
Maj. David Williams, an army spokesman, said his troops found eight bodies Friday in the Parliament building and collected 93 weapons in a sweep through the compound where the Muslim rebels lived.
He also reported the death of Njassane Omuaali, 21, stepson of rebel leader Abu Bakr and a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Williams reported that Omuaali, who was on summer vacation in Trinidad, was killed in a gun battle with police who found him in the town of Curepe, five miles east of Port of Spain, the capital.
The government said the coup attempt sparked violence and widespread looting and destruction in the capital, claiming at least 30 lives and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.
Unofficially, it was reported that more than 300 died and about 1,000 were injured in the failed coup.
The island continued to stagger Saturday from the aftereffects of the crisis. Food and gasoline remained scarce, and long lines formed outside grocery stores. Most supermarkets and banks remained closed.