Afrasheem murder suspect’s departure to Syria under investigation

President Abdulla Yameen has ordered an investigation into how a suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali was allowed to leave the Maldives in early January and travel to Syria.

“I have now ordered the police to investigate this. Azlif Rauf, who is said to have information on the murder, left the country while the case was ongoing,” Yameen said at a press conference at Muleeaage tonight.

“I want to raise the question as to why he was allowed to leave the country? Immigration officials and the defense minister who was in charge of immigration at the time must be accountable.”

Azlif is reported to have left the Maldives along with a suspect in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in the first week of January. His family claims he was killed in battle in May, and have publicised pictures of him in military fatigues carrying guns.

The police had forwarded accomplice to murder charges against Azlif to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence.

At the time of Azlif’s departure, the criminal court told Minivan News it had not issued any order to withhold his passport, as there were no pending charges.

Azlif left the Maldives in the same week that the defense ministry was temporarily handed over to tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb. Defence minister Mohamed Nazim was on leave at the time.

Soon after Nazim returned, the police raided his apartment and found a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. He was dismissed from the cabinet and jailed in March on weapons smuggling charges.

President Yameen’s announcement comes after local media reported today that the police had brought back a Maldivian man from Malaysia last week, after his family reported that he was attempting to travel to Syria to join the civil war.

The police in January brought back four Maldivians from Malaysia on the same charges. The government has recently submitted to parliament an anti-terrorism bill that hands out a jail sentence of up to 20 years for Maldivians who leave the country with the intent of fighting in a foreign war.

Meanwhile, several opposition politicians and Yameen’s own home minister have accused the president of involvement in Afrasheem’s murder. Home minister Umar Naseer made the allegations after he lost the ruling party’s presidential primaries to Yameen in 2013. He retracted the allegations after assuming the cabinet portfolio.

Yameen in May vowed to file criminal charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla over statements linking him with the murder. Imran is currently in police custody facing terrorism charges over an anti-government protest.

Reiterating concern over “unfounded allegations” tonight, Yameen censured journalists for “biased reporting,” claiming the media had failed to seek comments from the president’s spokesperson over the murder allegations.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is negotiating with the government for Nazim, Imran and former president Mohamed Nasheed’s release.

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Facebook group publishes Maldivian jihadi Azlif’s obituary

A Facebook page has published today the obituary and pictures of Maldivian jihadi Azlif Rauf who reportedly died in Syria in mid-May.

“The purpose of this page isn’t, by any means, to spread any propaganda. The reason we have taken special measures about the case of Azlif (Rahimahullah) is because people continuously keep slandering and putting false allegations on him,” the newly created page Haqqu said.

The former Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) officer is a suspect in the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in 2012. He reportedly left the Maldives in December with six members of the Kuda Henveiru gang.

He was under house arrest at the time.

Azlif’s family was reportedly informed of his death on May 17, but there has been no independent verification of his death.

Opposition politicians have questioned whether he had in fact gone to Syria and suggested he may have fled the country to escape prosecution.

Haqqu, created on May 15, supports the Islamic State. It has published 11 pictures of Azlif. In some pictures he is wearing military clothing and posing with a rifle alone. In others, three other men who look to be Maldivian and other foreign fighters pose with him.

Azlif with friends in Syria

Azlif jihad

Haqqu is also the name of a website created in late 2014 which featured IS-related news in Dhivehi as well as translations of a sermon by IS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The website appears to be inaccessible now.

A Twitter account by the same name last tweeted in November 28 on currency in the Islamic State.

In the obituary, Haqqu said Azlif was born in Malé and joined the MNDF after completing secondary school.

“During these times in life, he was associated with gangs and gang fights. If it were to be described shortly, we would have to say that he had a stained past, but despite all of this, he was a great leader, a caring father, and a compassionate husband.”

Despite a life long journey on a strayed path, Allah showed him the true path in 2013, Haqqu said.

“He immediately sacrificed all his worldly happiness and dedicated himself, to gain knowledge about Islam.”

His new friends were “baffled by his dedication, and commitment,” but they appreciated him in the same way his old gang members did, Haqqu said.

Azlif left the Maldives in December “despite being under close watch from the Kufr [infidel] police.” Citing fellow fighters in Syria, Haqqu said Azlif’s new goal had been to kill as many non-Muslims as possible.

He was reportedly part of a 12-member platoon.

“His brothers there described him as a soft, and silent man, who struck, sharp and accurately at the right times, just like a snake.” He was shot in the hamstring and killed in a skirmish near an airport Quarius Airport in a region called Wilayat Al Halab.

A man called Abu Arsalaan who was reportedly with Azlif at the time of his death said that “he could make out Azlif (Rahimahuallah)’s face even though it was a dark night, due to the glow in his face.”

Azlif has three children, two girls and one boy.

In January, newspaper Haveeru said Azlif had attempted to take his daughters and then-pregnant wife with him, but was prevented by his wife’s family.

The majority of Facebook users who commented on the post left prayers for Azlif, saying they hoped Allah would accept Azlif as a martyr and would grant him eternity in heaven.

“A good example to those who have military training but do nothing to help the ummah,” one commenter said.

Others questioned the authenticity of the post. One pointed out the page had been created just before Azlif’s death was reported.

Haqqu said in reply: “The fact that this page was created soon before the martyrdom of Azlif (Rahimahullah) is merely a coincidence. We had one other page named Haqqu, but since at the time, the brothers were more focused on updating the Haqqu website, the page wasn’t up to date. You can search for yourself.”

The police were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

The police had forwarded terrorism charges against Azlif to the prosecutor general’s office over Afrasheem’s murder. But the PG had not filed charges at the court.

Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the murder, had said Azlif had planned the murder in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession and claimed it had come under duress.

Nearly a dozen Maldivians are reported to have died in Syria. A majority reportedly fought with the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra front.

The government is working on a new terrorism law to criminalise participation in foreign wars. The police in January said more than 50 Maldivians are in Syria, but the opposition says the figure could be as high as 200.

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No pending charges against Azlif Rauf, says Criminal Court

The Criminal Court has confirmed that there are no pending charges against Azlif Rauf of Henveiru Hilton, hence the court has not issued an order to the Department of Immigration and Emigration to hold his passport.

Yesterday (January 9) it was reported that Azlif Rauf travelled to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang.

The seven also included an individual arrested over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, one man arrested for issuing a death threat, one man classified by the police as a dangerous criminal, and three men with criminal records, local media have reported.

Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the Afrasheem murder, named Azlif and five others in the organising of the killing in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession claiming it had come under duress.

Officials at the Prosecutor General’s Office told Minivan News that they had pressed terrorism charges against Rauf on October 3, 2013, before withdrawing them on September 11, 2014 “for further review”. No decision has yet been made on the case.

They also stated that no decision has been made on the file sent by Maldives Police Services regarding Azlif Rauf’s potential involvement in the Afrasheem murder.

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Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of twelve jihadis

Two immigration officers and a suspect in the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali are among a group of twelve Maldivians to travel to Syria for jihad, reliable sources have told Minivan News.

Afrasheem murder suspect, Azlif Rauf of Henveiru Hilton, left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang four days ago, sources have said. They have now crossed the border into Syria.

The two immigration officers were among a group of six individuals who traveled to Syria on December 27. The five included two women and a one year old infant.

Azlif’s group also included an individual arrested over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, one man arrested for issuing a death threat, one man classified by the police as a dangerous criminal, and three men with criminal records, local media have reported.

The Maldives Police Services declined to comment on the report.

According to Haveeru, Azlif had attempted to take his pregnant wife, one-year-old son and four-year-old daughter with him, but his wife’s family had prevented them from accompanying him.

Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the Afrasheem murder, named Azlif and five others in the organising of the killing in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession claiming it had come under duress.

The police have forwarded accomplice to murder charges against Azlif to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but charges have not yet been filed at the Criminal Court.

The Criminal Court in December fined Azlif and ordered him to pay back a MVR50,000 loan to the Bank of Maldives.

An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN) identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of a red car which may have been used in an abduction reported on the night Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint in front of Rilwan’s apartment building around the time he would have reached home on August 8.

According to MDN’s report, police were investigating Arlif’s car for having been illegally imported to Hulhumalé on August 4, and returned to Malé sometime between August 13 – 15.

It also suggested gang leaders had been exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison, saying that they openly supported the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and recruited jihadists for the war in Syria and Iraq.

Last month, Home Minister Umar Naseer reported that there are more than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars.

In November, a jihadist media group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

BASM had made a threat to Rilwan shortly before his disappearance in which they stated ‘his days were short’.

Earlier in November, Sri Lankan police detained three Maldivians who were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria through Turkey.

The incident followed reports of a couple from Fuvahmulah and a family of four from Meedhoo in Raa Atoll travelling to militant organisation Islamic State-held (IS) territories.

This article previously incorrectly stated two immigration officers were among the group of seven Maldivians to travel to jihad in January. The officers were in fact among a group of six who traveled to Syria in December.



Related to this story

Six Maldivians reported as latest to travel for jihad, taking one-year-old infant

More than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars, reveals home minister

MDN investigation implicates radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance

Police detain Maldivian jihadis caught in Sri Lanka

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Chief suspect in Afrasheem case changes testimony, confesses to MP’s murder

The chief suspect in the MP Dr Afrasheem Ali murder case has confessed to the crime in Criminal Court today, after previously denying his involvement in the attack earlier this month.

Hussain Humam, of Male’s Henveiru Lobby, told the court today (May 22) that he carried out the fatal attack on Afrasheem with the help of Ali Shan of Male’s Henveiru Hikost, and that the juvenile suspect in the case was also present.

Earlier this month, Humam confessed in court to multiple stabbings, robberies and at least one murder, but denied murdering the MP.

State prosecutors told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on the jeans Humam was wearing that night, local media reported.

During the court hearing today, Humam was given the opportunity to respond to the evidence produced against him.

Humam told the judge that “now that this is very clear I have nothing to say.” When the judge queried as to whether he was confessing, Humam replied “yes”.

The prosecution lawyers produced the statement Humam gave on December 7, 2012, when he was brought before the court to extend his pre-trial detention period, the statement given by the minor arrested in connection with the case, evidence supporting that Humam went to Dr Afrasheem’s house that night, evidences of Humam’s attack and evidence that Dr Afrasheem died of injuries caused to his body from the attack.

The prosecution told the court that the statement given by the minor and the statement given by Humam on December 7 matched the evidence, and told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA samples were obtained from the jeans worn by Humam the night of Dr Afrasheem’s death.

The prosecution also said that there were witnesses who wanted to testify in court that they had learned Humam and a group of people had planned to murder Dr Afrasheem. The lawyers requested the judge keep the witnesses statements closed to the public.

When the judge asked Humam for his response was, he replied that he had already spoken of how Dr Afrasheem’s murder was carried out, and requested the judge to read out his statement given on December 7.

Humam then said that the idea of killing Dr Afrasheem was given to him by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, who he met at the a baibalaa tournament held in 2012.

He said that at the baibalaa tournament Azleef had asked him not to get arrested, and that night sent him to pick up a kilogram of drugs from the airport that were smuggled in to the country by a Pakistani man. He said he dropped the drugs off to the house where a person he identified as ‘Mukkar’ lived.

Humam said he did it because Azleef had told him he would get half of the profit from selling it.

He said he was later sent by Azleef to Velidhoo island in Noonu Atoll to sell drugs, but the drugs they took did not sell and so he took it himself with a group of friends on the island.

Humam said he stayed on Velidhoo for three weeks and came back to Male’ on September 25, after Azleef called and asked him to come back.

According to Humam, after he came to Male’ he was invited to a coffee with Azleef, Javid and his brother ‘Jana’, where Azleef said that “I promise you will get MVR4 million if you murder Dr Afrasheem,” to which Javid’s brother ‘Jana’ replied “yes you will.”

Humam told the court that later he had met with a person called ‘Spy’ and Azleef where he asked them why he had to attack Afrasheem.

He said that they replied that one of the reasons they had to get rid of Dr Afrasheem was the remarks he made the day former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned.

Humam said Azleef had provided him with an identity card and money to buy SIM cards and mobile phones.

According to Humam, during that meeting ‘Spy’ and Azleef told him that they would meet again after Afrasheem had been murdered.

He said that on the evening of October 1, the night Afrasheem was killed, he went near the MP’s house to take a look after Azleef had asked him to do so.

The weapons and tools used in the attack were hidden in the house of a person called ‘Nangi’, Humam said.

He said he called ‘Nangi’ that night and asked him and Ali Shan [the second suspect charged with the murder] to come to his house.

When Shan and Humam went to Nangi’s house he came out with a big black dustbin bag which had jeans, tshirts, gloves, a machete and a bayonet knife.

The three of them went to the Henveiru park, got changed inside the park, and walked to Dr Afrasheem’s house. Humam said he waited inside the house for Shan to signal, who was waiting outside.

He said after a while Shan came inside and told him that Afrasheem was on the way, and 10 seconds later Afrasheem entered the house.

He said he then attacked Afrasheem with the machete and he felt to the ground, and then Shan came and attacked him with the bayonet knife.

Humam said he left the scene with Shan on a motorbike and stopped at the Shaheed Ali Mosque to wash his hands because he had blood on his jeans and tshirt.

He said he then went back to Henveiru Park and got changed again, and went to the Blue Bay Café where he again washed his hands.

Then he went inside the Henveiru Football ground to lie down, where he fell asleep and woke up the next morning when Azleef called him.

He said he walked out of the football ground to the near the State Bank of India, where he was arrested.

Humam said he had not received any amount of money from the murder, but said Azleef told him that he had received MVR1 million in advance.

He said he had seen himself hanged in his dreams and had talked about this to police officers. He also confessed that he had sent notes to Azleef through people released from pre-trial detention, and had tried to produce evidence in his defence.

Humam stated that on Ocotber 1, he spent the whole day drinking alcohol and smoking hash oil and did not go home after 3:00pm. He said that he finished four bottles of alcohol and smoked lots of hash.

He said he initially denied to the charges before thinking about what might happen to his family. But he said now wished to apologise to Dr Afrasheem’s family and repent.

When the Judge asked if there was anything else he would like to say, he said he would like to request the judge not sentence him to death.

MP Afrasheem was stabbed to death on the night of October 1 2012. His body was discovered by his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their apartment building shortly after midnight.

Humam’s next court hearing date has not yet been decided, Criminal Court Spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Manik told Minivan News today.

“A lot of procedures need to be completed prior to Humam’s next hearing,” said Manik. “Afrasheem’s family will be brought in to see what they want [in regard to whether they call for Humam to receive the death penalty].”

Shan’s Criminal Court case has yet to start.

It is unclear whether police intend to make additional arrests in light of Humam’s allegations.

Given that the investigation process is ongoing, the police will “reveal information as it progresses,” a police spokesperson told Minivan News today.

Earlier this May, the Juvenile Court sentenced a minor arrested in connection with Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder to eight months imprisonment after the court found him guilty of misleading the police investigation.

Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz has previously claimed the child “deliberately misled” police by providing false information during their investigation into Afrasheem’s murder. The minor was the “lookout” during the stabbing and subsequent murder of the moderate Islamic scholar, Riyaz had alleged on December 4.

Rauf and Javid were also previously detained by police over their alleged involvement in the case. Both were later released by the court.

Javid spent 45 days in detention in connection to the Afrasheem murder, after which time at the time his lawyer argued his continued detention was unconstitutional given there was no evidence to support keeping him in custody.

On the day of Javid’s release (January 17), his brother Shahin Mohamed was taken away “without any warning” by police whilst waiting with Javid’s family outside of the court. Mohamed was released from police custody three hours after he was taken away by police.

In December last year the MDP accused the police of attempting to pin Afrasheem’s murder on its members, instead of going after those guilty of the crime.

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has previously alleged that the murder of the MP was “well planned” and worth MVR 4 million (US$260,000), the same amount stated by Humam in court.

Humam’s confession closely follows a statement from the UN team in the Maldives calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

At the same time, a US State Department report into religious freedom released earlier this week noted that one of the “more prominent theories” about the murder of moderate Islamic scholar and parliamentarian Afrasheem Ali was “that violent extremists viewed Afrasheem’s very public moderate approach to Islam as apostasy and killed him to send a message to moderate Muslims that a strict interpretation of Islam is the only acceptable approach.”

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