Police officers participate in regional anti-terrorism seminar

Two officers from the Maldives Police Service have attended the Seminar on Anti-Terrorism For Asian Countries held in China from April 9 to 29.

The seminar was designed to hold discussions on the status of anti-terrorism efforts in Asian countries, and to explore additional means of dealing with terrorism crimes.

The two officers who attended the seminar are Chief Inspector of Police Ahmed Shameem and Inspector of Police Nahid Hussain.

The seminar was organised by the Chinese government and included participants from SAARC countries, ASEAN countries and outher South East Asian countries.


Sri Lankan special forces bring bark to SAARC

Sri Lanka will provide security from its Special Task Force (STF) units for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to be held in Addu City this November.

STF is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lankan police which was formed in 1983, and focuses on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. It was the lead unit engaged with the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war.

The Foreign Ministry and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) confirmed today that STF will be sending police dogs to support unidentified security matters.

“Previously, security dogs were allowed at the international airport, I’m not sure if they are still there but Maldivian law allows dogs to be used for security measures,” said MNDF Spokesperson Abdul Raheem.

“The dogs will clear the same areas as the event and other security forces, but I can’t say what they will be looking for,” he added.

Dogs are considered haram in Islam, and are prohibited as domestic pets in the Maldives. An exception was made for drug-sniffing and security dogs at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, however sources familiar with the issue say local staff were unable to provide proper care for the dogs and they fell ill.

Allegations of religious intervention were denied.

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News that the STF dogs would not be an issue for the SAARC event. “We had dogs earlier for security without any trouble, I don’t see why anybody should object because the government has officially employed dogs before,” he said.

All countries participating in the SAARC convention are providing security forces. According to Zuhair, Bangladesh has donated trucks to the army, India is contributing police forces, and equipment with an estimated value of US$400,000 will be arriving from Pakistan in the next few days.

China will provide CCTV equipment for surveillance.

“It’s a well-integrated and cooperative effort with MNDF and all participating members,” said Zuhair, who pointed out that Addu was a unique site for an event of this magnitude.

“The last SAARC was held in Male’, but this time the event will be spread across several islands. Transportation logistics will be different,” said Zuhair.

Raheem said security preparations are under way for SAARC, and that MNDF “is sure that things will be to our satisfaction.”

Heads of state from the region will be attending SAARC, several of which are currently high-profile figures in the international community.

“We have to look at this as a high-risk event. Some heads of state are high-risk, but we are treating each and every head of state as high-risk to ensure their security,” said Raheem.

Local media reports that STF forces have been having special training programs in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo to prepare for the Addu event.


The previous version of this article stated that Pakistan would provide US$4,600-worth of equipment to the SAARC summit security measures.

It should have read, “equipment with an estimated value of US$400,000 will be arriving from Pakistan in the next few days.”


Indian press report growing concerns over possible terrorist base in Maldives

Concerns that Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba are seeking to establish a ‘sleeper cell’ in the Maldives have re-risen following reports in the Indian media.

The Times of India reported yesterday that India has quickened its efforts to formalise the counter-terrorism partnership between the two countries.

Quoting Indian intelligence sources, the Times reported that India “has noted with concern the sharp increase in the number of visitor from the Maldives to Pakistan, where they spend a lot of time travelling around the country for purposes which are unclear but suspicious.”

The isolation and strategic location of the Maldives make it a tempting target for groups such as Lashkar, which India has identified as responsible for the attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, in which gunmen entered the city by sea and killed at least 173 people and wounded 308.

Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Shihab travelled to India in early February to meet his counterpart P Chidambaram, in order to draw up a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries that was to be signed in April.

State Minister for Home Affairs Adil Saleem said today Shihab was in Delhi but the trip was on the invitation of the World Bank regarding unrelated matters.

A spokesman for the Indian High Commission said defence agreements between India and the Maldives were “a continuous arrangement” and not specific to a particular incident or group.

He acknowledged that there was “support for fundamentalist groups” in the Maldives but would not speculate on who those groups were or defence arrangements between the two countries. He noted that no agreements had progressed since the minister’s last visit to India in February.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem noted that the Maldives and India performed intelligence sharing “very well”.

“India is very concerned about this group Lashkar-e-Taiba; I think all the countries in this region need to be vigilant,” Naseem said, emphasising the importance of “close cooperation with our regional neighbours.”

In a letter sent to the Indian parliament on Tuesday, India’s State Minister for Home Affairs Ajay Maken wrote that “available inputs indicate that Pakistan-based terrorist groups, primarily the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), are making concerted efforts to organise terrorist attacks in various parts of the country, including iconic institutions, prominent industrial installations and tourist locations among others.”

In order to do so, he noted, the group was making concerted efforts to develop links with other countries in the region, including the Maldives.

Other prominent groups posing a threat included Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM), Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Al Badr, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), Khalistan Commando force, International Sikh Youth federation (ISYF), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and Communist party of India (Maoist),” Maken noted.