There are over 50 Maldivians fighting in foreign wars, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed has revealed.
“These people leave the country under normal procedures. So it is not easy to identify if they are traveling to go fight with foreign rebel groups,” Waheed told the press today.
“However, within a few days we hear that they have joined these groups. Our statistics estimate there are 50 Maldivians working with foreign rebel groups.”
The commissioner’s estimate dwarfs the figure suggested by Home Minister Umar Naseer to the People’s Majlis in December. Naseer at the time said that over seven Maldivians were fighting abroad.
In the past fortnight, at least twelve Maldivians have traveled to Syria via turkey for jihad.
Responding to a question from Minivan News on mechanisms to prevent radicalisation, Waheed said police might reveal plans at a later late.
“We are working on it. Even now, we are doing a lot of work with the Islamic ministry and other relevant government institutions.”
The police do not yet know who the most vulnerable groups to radicalisation are in the Maldives, Waheed continued, pointing out recent jihadis included both genders, urban and rural areas, and people of all ages.
When asked if radicalised groups posed a domestic terrorist threat, Waheed said the police are tracking individuals associated with foreign militant groups.
“We know who the foreign militants are. We are monitoring their activities. My hope is, I believe we will be able to monitor them to the extent they are unable to [present a threat] in the Maldives.”
He appealed to the public to share any reports of individuals who may leave the Maldives for jihad.
According to reliable sources, a group of six that left the country on December 27 included two immigration officers. Others in the group include two women who are spouses of two of the men and a one year old infant.
The second group of seven all belonged to Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang. They include a suspect in the brutal murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali, Azlif Rauf.
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.
Waheed refused to comment on Azlif’s whereabouts.
In 2013, the former Maldivian National Defense Force officer was put under house arrest over pending terrorism charges, but the Prosecutor General’s Office withdrew charges last September.
Waheed said the police can only prevent such people from leaving the country if the force receives prior information that they may be traveling for jihad.
Maldivians are not barred from international travel, Waheed said, and so “it is not easy to figure out what motive they are traveling for”.
In November, Sri Lankan police detained three Maldivians who were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria through Turkey.
In November, a jihadist group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.
A protest march took place in the capital, Malé, in September, with around 200 participants bearing the IS flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.
In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
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