Police conduct random checks on flights bound to Turkey

The police have begun conducting random checks on passengers on board flights to Turkey in a bid to deter the growing numbers of Maldivians seeking to join radical Islamic movements in Syria and Iraq.

A police spokesperson said the police have been randomly questioning Maldivians en route to Turkey on different airlines for their reasons for flying to Turkey and their return dates.

The operation has been ongoing for more than 90 days.

The police declined to give additional details.

The government has drafted a new anti-terrorism bill that would criminalize the act of leaving the Maldives to participate in foreign wars.

The bill, however, also grant the president the exclusive authority to declare groups as terrorist organizations, and also criminalizes the promotion of certain political or religious ideology as a terrorist offense.

When reports of Maldivians joining in the Syrian civil-war and dying in battle first surfaced in local media, President Abdulla Yameen said he was not aware of Maldivian participation in foreign wars.

In December, home minister Umar Naseer acknowledged the problem of Maldivians fighting in foreign wars, but said only seven Maldivians were active in war. In January, the commissioner of police Hussain Waheed estimated the figure to be more than 50.

But the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party says the figure could be as high as 200.

Waheed said that police were monitoring the activities of militants and would reveal details of plans to prevent radicalisation at a later date. The MDP has said the government is doing little to counter radicalisation and prevent recruitment of would-be fighters.

Atleast seven Maldivians are reported to have died in Syria.

On May 31, newspaper Haveeru said two more Maldivians had been killed while fighting with the Islamic State.

Many would-be fighters migrate with their families and children. Several officers of the Department of Immigration are reported to have left the Maldives for jihad.

A UN report has raised concerns over an increase in fighters leaving the Maldives to join terrorist organisations including al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The expert report to the UN Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, said the flow of fighters globally “is higher than it has ever been historically”, increasing from a few thousand a decade ago to over 25,000 from more than 100 nations today.

The UN report, written by a UN panel monitoring sanctions against Al-Qaida, listed the Maldives, Finland and Trinidad and Tobago as countries from which numbers of fighters were increasing, while the highest number of foreign fighters come from Tunisia, Morocco, France and Russia.

Most fighters travel to Syria and Iraq, to fight primarily for the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra front.

A Facebook page had published, the obituary and pictures of Maldivian jihadi Azlif Rauf on May 24, who reportedly died in Syria in mid-May.

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.