The government has said it will not amend national security measures after police last week arrested a Maldivian man suspected of involvement in a bomb attack in Male’s Sultan Park back in 2007 upon his return to the country.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that Maldivian national Iqbal Mohamed had been arrested on arrival at Male’ International Airport from Pakistan, after authorities had been alerted of his movements by the International Police Organisation Interpol.
However, the President’s Office claimed that the arrest did not impact current security practices in relation to possible wider terrorist threats in the country.
The arrest was made in connection with a homemade bomb attack in Male’ in 2007, where a device built from components such as a gas cylinder, a washing machine motor and a mobile phone exploded injuring 12 tourists – several seriously.
Shiyam told Minivan News today that although Iqbal Mohamed was believed to have been in Pakistan at the time of the bombing, he had been wanted by police as part of their ongoing investigations into the 2007 attack due to an alleged role in the plan.
“He [Mohamed] is in custody right now,” added Shiyam, who claimed the Maldives Police Service was now waiting for the Prosecutor General to present a case against the suspect ahead of any potential trial in the Maldives.
“We really don’t why has had travelled back to the Maldives, but we have now arrested him.”
Mohamed, who is the subject of a red notice issued by Interpol, drew police attention after Interpol’s Major Events Support Team (IMEST), currently operating in Sri Lanka during the Cricket World Cup, identified the suspect as he was traveling through the country back to the Maldives.
According to Interpol, red notices are a system used to keep the 188 nations that make up its members informed of arrest warrants issued by judicial authorities. Although the notices are not formal arrest warrants, the organisation said that they are used to identify individuals wanted for crimes under a national jurisdiction.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that he did not believe Iqbal’s return raised concerns about further potential attacks in the country.
He claimed that the country’s National Security Advisor had recently addressed the issue of religious fundamentalists after a request from the country’s Immigration Commissioner and found no additional concerns.
Zuhair added that the advisor had concluded that there was not thought to be any terror cells operating within the Maldives and claimed there was no need to further heighten national security against such threats.
The press secretary claimed that rather than facing possible arrest in a foreign country, Iqbal had perhaps returned to face more lenient sentencing that he claimed would be offered by the Maldives’ legal system.
After the attacks took place, 10 Maldivians and two foreigners were arrested in connection with the case. By December 2007, three men confessed to having roles in the bombing in court and were sentenced to 15 years prison.
According to the Attorney General’s office at the time, sixteen men had been charged under the terrorism act in relation to the Sultan Park bombing, including ten fugitives believed to be in Pakistan.
In August last year, the government had announced that it would commute the sentences of two of the three convicted terrorists found guilty of being responsible for the bombings under the Clemency Act.
The two men had their sentences changed from incarceration to three year suspended sentences under strict observation.
By comparison, Zuhair pointed to the case of nine Maldivian nationals that were arrested back in 2009 after allegedly being found carrying weapons near the Pakistani-Afghan border, who were facing strict punishments for their alleged offences.
Last April, as the Maldives and India was working on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding joint counter-terrorism measures, press reports in the country began surfacing claiming that concerns had grown over the likelihood that groups like Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba may have a foothold in the country.
The claims have not been officially confirmed and no serious attacks have occurred since the 2007 bombing.