Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem has called on authorities to take terrorism issues more seriously, noting the most common source comes from religious extremism.
”We should become more proactive and stop complaining about the missing laws,” he told Minivan News today. ”There are things we can still do to curb crimes although some of the necessary laws are still not passed.”
Shameem noted that the current Terrorism Act was adequate, but the lack of laws such as the Evidence Act was an issue.
Speaking at a ceremony held to commence a police terrorism-training course last night, Shameem told attendees that past incidents of terrorism occurred in the Maldives due to a lack of discussion on the issue of religious extremism.
While the absence of laws to stop some types of crimes was a problem, Shameem stated that it was not a reason for police to stop work on combating them. He advised authorities to follow international best practice in a manner that respects suspects’ constitutional rights.
He also said that the police must be two steps ahead when laws pertaining to the issue come into existence in the Maldives.
Shameem’s comments echoed those of the Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed,who has also suggested that religious differences in the country could be solved “if we sit down and share religious information”.
The minister’s comments followed Malé City Council’s closure of the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque after the council received complaints from the Home Ministry that the mosque was being used by an extremist congregation who had been advocating for the destruction of the current government.
The congregation were praying that Allah would give victory against the “irreligious” government which attempts to obstruct the spreading of Allah’s message and to shut down mosques. Requesting victory, they also asked Allah to destroy and send his wrath upon military and police officers implementing the government’s orders.
In August 2013, Sheikh Shaheem had expressed concern that Friday prayers conducted in the mosque were not conducted by state authorised Imams.
In May 2013, the then-Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam warned of a rising risk of terrorist attack in the Maldives, during a joint local and US military inauguration to establish a level of alerts for terrorism in the country.
Shiyam cautioned against assuming the country was completely safe from terrorist attacks simply based on the fact that no major terrorist activities have been uncovered in the country to date, warning there was an increased risk attacks stemming from “religious extremism and political turmoil”.
“Some [Maldivian] youth have already joined up with terrorist organisations. They are now travelling to various war zones and locations and enrolling in a number of terrorist training camps,” said Shiyam.
“Although some of these youth have managed to travel back to this country, the whereabouts of others remain unknown. This is a warning sign of how terrorism is spreading across our country,” Shiyam said at the time.
He also said that it was immensely important for the security forces to be well-trained in counter-terrorism measures and to ensure the forces remain ready to respond should such an incident occur.
In April 2013, an article published by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) entitled ‘The Threat from Rising Extremism in the Maldives‘ stated that in April 2006, a Maldivian national, Ali Jaleel, and a small group of jihadists from the Maldives attempted to travel to Pakistan to train for violent jihad in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The only incident of a terrorist attack on Maldivian soil was the Sultan Park bombing in September 2007.
A bomb exploded in the Malé’s park, wounding 12 foreigners. The three men arrested and later jailed for the bombing confessed that their goal was to “target, attack and injure non-Muslims to fulfill jihad,” noted the CTC report.
After the investigations of security services led to Darul-Khair mosque on Himandhoo Island, police were confronted by 90 islanders, who had armed themselves with batons and knives, vowing to defend the mosque to the last man.
In the ensuing skirmish, a soldier was taken captive and another’s hand was severed. Shortly afterwards a video discovered on an Al Qaeda forum was found to contain footage taken inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque moments before it was raided by police.
Evidence suggests that three Maldivian jihadists planned to establish a terrorist group in the country around 2007-2008 and send members for military training in Pakistan.