Police have said 11 suspects have been taken into custody for alleged involvement in a stabbing attack at the ‘Home X’ store in the capital on May 19 that hospitalised one male victim – with authorities pledging to continue a crack down on gang activity.
In a statement released today, police claimed that the 11 individuals, all male suspects between 17 and 27 years of age, were detained on the 9th floor of the Aroodhaage building in Male’ as part of investigations into the store assault.
“Out of the 11 individuals brought in, there were two 19 year old males, one 27 year old male, one 20 year old male, one 21 year old male, four 18 year old males and two 17 year old males,” police stated following the operation.
Local media reported at the time that the victim of the attack had fled into an electronics store in Male’ in order to shelter from a group that proceeded to assault him using a “sharp object”.
The store attack was among a series of stabbings reported across the capital this month – prompting police to form a special task force designed to try and combat gang violence.
The now-active task force consists of members from the Forensics Directorate, Intelligence and Covert Policing Command, Information and Communication Directorate, Central Operations Command and Technical Police from the Divisional Operations Command of the Maldives Police Service.
“Criminal at large”
Speaking to local media today, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz said members of the taskforce were now searching for 50 “high-profile” suspects alleged to have had involvement with gang-related activities
“They are a threat to the society. We consider everyone, who had not been punished for a crime they had committed, as a criminal at large,” he was quoted by local newspaper Haveeru as saying.
Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press regarding how the 50 suspects had been identified or if they belonged to specific groups. The police media department was also not responding to calls at time of press.
Riya’s comments were made less than a week after he alleged politicians were most often responsible for encouraging gang-related activities in the capital island Male’.
The claims echoed the findings of a report into the country’s gang culture published last year by the Asia Foundation that found politicians and businessmen paid gangs to assault rivals, damage property, and in some cases have opponents killed.
Speaking to Minivan News earlier this month, former head of police intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed claimed the stabbing incidents were “probably” retaliatory and inter-related based on media reports at the time.
Hameed also raised accused the country’s police service of presently lacking a clear approach in terms of reducing and dealing with violence crimes and criminals.
“Not being able to police Male’ – the most populated city in the country – due to the lack of an effective strategy and the disconnect between the key areas of criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, and front line policing is a big issue,” he added.
In addition to the lack of a “very effective policing approach” to combat violent crime, low level crimes had also not been addressed, according to Hameed.
“A lot of antisocial behavior goes unnoticed and unaddressed by the police, such as harassment and public nuisance. For example, girls of a very young age are harassed, even while walking with their families. Additionally, juveniles are seen under the influence of drugs and intoxicated in public,” he explained.
Hameed advocated that a strong, more integrated, holistic approach is needed that applies a broader strategy to effectively reduce crime.
“Increasing police officers physical presence, as well as effective targeting of high profile offenders and hotspots needs to be addressed,” he said.
“Collaboration between criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, and front line policing are three areas that have never worked that effectively,” he added at the time.