Crowd leaves man lying in street after gang stabbing, no arrests made

A group of more than 10 men beat and stabbed a 19 year old man in Male’ yesterday in front of many witnesses, as he was walking down a street in Mahchangolhi, Male’.

An eye witness told Minivan News the group of men “appeared and circled around him, then they started beating him and [eventually] stabbed him.”

The man claimed that many people gathered to watch the man being attacked, “but no one step forward to cared to lend a helping hand.”

After the attack the crowd dispersed, “leaving the victim on the street bleeding.”

The witness said when he tried to help the wounded man to hospital, “the taxi refused to take him because he might put blood on seat.”

The man was stabbed in four places, said a person familiar with victim.

”He had a deep cut in the back and injured his lungs. His left arm was injured very seriously when he tried to block an attack aimed at his head.”

The victim was eventually admitted in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and in undergoing operations on his lungs and left hand, the source said.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said no one has yet been arrested in connection with the incident, and police were investigating.

Meanwhile, daily newspaper Haveeru reported that an 18 year-old boy was admitted to ADK Hospital with severe injuries after he was stabbed while watching the World Cup tournament.


Anti-gang task force a temporary measure until bills passed, say police

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam has said a special operation to curb rising in gang violence is a temporary measure taken by the police that has proven successful since in began in March this year.

”These are just temporary measurements taken by the police and this way we can curb the rise in gang violence for the time being,” said Shiyam.

”But can only take permanent measures when the necessary bills are passed.”

‘The more gang activities increases, the more police would increase their own activity, Shiyam explained. ”Police special operations are controlling the gang violence temporarily.”

Shiyam said that more than 85 people were arrested in three nights.

”We arrested 40 people one night, 15 on the next and 30 the next,” he said, ”and crime rates have decreased. Some of them have been released by the court.”

He said that police destroyed the wall of Galolhu Masodige after being granted a court order.

”During some operations where we think police might be attacked, we use masks to cover our faces,” he said.

”Sometimes police officers get injured trying to control assaults and gang related crimes.”

He said the recent string of multiple stabbings was related to “an ongoing gang war.”

”It’s just one gang attacking the other and it goes on like that,” he said. “It started after one boy was attacked near Galolhu Sinamale.”

Police have recently arrested many people to try and curb raising gang violence in Male’.

When the special operations started, police said it would not be stopped until the city became a peaceful place.

On 20 March, in a highly-publicised operation intended to reduce gang crime in the capital Male’, police arrested 22 men suspected of being key players in gang violence.

Police sub inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the men were arrested in different areas of Male’ and are were “notable gangsters” involved in gang violence.

Police also collected chairs, sofas and weapons from places where gangs lived, to stop gang members congregating, and stored them in the police tow yard.

On March 25th, following the arrest of 26 people in a special operation to try and curb rising gang violence in Malé, Minivan News spoke to three gang members, on condition of anonymity, to try and learn if both the operation was proving effective, and what was contributing to rising gang violence in the first place.

Rising gang crime: a timeline

During last year on December 28, prominent businessman Ahmed Ibrahim Didi, known as ‘Campus’ Didi, was stabbed and robbed of almost US$300,000 in cash by unknown assailants.

On December 30, the manager Mohamed Rashaad Adam and an employee of the Sunfront store on Majeedhee Magu were attacked on their way home.

On January 7, the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) launched a rehabilitation program for recently released inmates who were serving time for minor drug offences. There were 62 former inmates enrolled in this program, with more than 150 still awaiting clearance.

On January 10, a man was attacked and stabbed with a sharp object in the early hours of that morning. According to police, he man was attacked by a gang of six men. A boy under the age of 18 was arrested in connection to the case.

On January 17, police arrested 19 people in connection with the stabbing of Ahmed Ibrahim ‘Campus’ Didi.

On January 20, head of the police drug enforcement unit Mohamed Jinah claimed “it won’t be long” before police arrest the remaining four of the top six drug dealers identified by President Mohamed Nasheed.

“Two of the top six drug dealers have been arrested. We will arrest the remaining four as soon as possible,” he promised.

On January 23, a group of men allegedly gang raped a woman on Fuvahmulah after dragging her to a beach and restraining her husband.

On January 28, six men were injured in a fight between two groups in Gnaviyanni Faumulaku, and one of the injured men died while receiving treatment.

On  February 7, a 15 year old boy and his 35 year old father were attacked and stabbed by gang members in  Hulhumale’.

On February 8, a businessman was attacked and robbed of Rf435,000 (US$33850) and US$7100 on Janavary Magu near Sonee Hardware.

On March 1, President Mohamed Nasheed criticised the judiciary during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally and said that the government would not back down and will continue to arrest drug dealers.

On March 2, a man driving a pick-up truck was stabbed near Vaadhee Fresh in Maameyo Magu.

On March 3, the country manager of Habib Bank was stabbed and robbed in his home by a gang of four masked men. During the incident he suffered injuries to his nose, forehead and right arm but was not seriously hurt.

On March 8, police arrested three men in connection with the armed robbery of Habib Bank’s country manager.

On March 15, four men forcibly entered DhiTV studios and attacked five senior officials at the station afternoon, shortly after the station aired a report on its 2 o’clock news claiming that Ibrahim Nafiz, ‘Chika’, had been released to house arrest. Three hours after the alleged gang attack on DhiTV, a Haveeru employee was stabbed in the back.

Abdul Razzag Adam, 39, who works at the printing department, was knifed outside the Haveeru office building while he was on his cycle.

On March 25, a well-known flower shop on Sosun Magu, Cactus, was robbed by a group of intruders who threatened staff with knives and box cutters.

A witness to the incident, who spoke with the staff, told Minivan News that three men entered the flower shop and threatened the staff with knives and cutters, and stole Rf35,000 (US$2700)

On March 26, a group of 15 men abducted, drugged and gang raped a 20 year old girl while reportedly filming the incident with a mobile phone.

On March 30 the Maldives Police Service (MPS) claimed some politicians were using gangs to cause unrest, intimidate people and attack opponents.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that “police have learned some politicians have used gang members to create unrest.”

On April 19, police arrested 22 people including four children under the age of 18 in Laamu Gan, after they were attacked during a wave of gang violence.

Police alleged gang members broke the glass windows of a shop in the industrial area of Mathimaradhu, burnt down a hut in Mulurimagu [district] and broke the windows of two houses. When they tried to stop the gang members, police claim they they were attacked and a police vehicle was damaged.

On 3 May, two men on a motorbike stabbed a 16 year old child in front of two police officers on Ameenee Magu near Imadudeen School, before fleeing.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the two police officers were investigating a motor vehicle accident when the incident occurred. The boy injured his lungs and arm during the stab.

On 26 May, a taxi driver threatened a 19 year-old girl with a knife inside his car. The girl was forced to give money to the driver while she was traveling to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

On 29 May two men stabbed a 14 year-old boy in eight places, injuring his lungs and liver.


Maldives among few countries to improve press freedom

UNESCO World Press Freedom Day began with the news that the Maldives index has improved slightly following its 53 point leap last year, an achievement attributed to the new Constitution.

The Maldives is now ranked 102, equal place with Tanzina and Albania and marginally ahead of Turkey and Indonesia. The Maldives is still categorised as ‘partly free’, the reasons for which should be revealed when the country report is released in the coming days.

The rise came despite recent gang violence directed at media organisations and an attempt by police to block radio news coverage following emphatic protests outside MNDF headquarters and the President’s residence in January, drawing concern from the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and a number of media outlets.

Worldwide the index declined across almost every region in the world, for the eighth consecutive year, with one in six people now living in an environment without a free press. The only region to improve was Asia-Pacific, with significant strides in Bangladesh and Bhutan.

According to Freedom House, the international body that runs the index, countries are assessed on the developments of each calendar year, including the legal environment in which media operate, political influences and economic pressures.

Meanwhile, the two-day South Asia Regional Consultation on Freedom of Information: The Right to Know was launched in Holiday Inn this morning, by Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Dr Ali Sawad.

Delegates from the media, government and civil society organisations in countries including Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka met discuss the development and implementation of freedom of information laws as a means of combating corruption and enshrining free press as a fourth estate.

In a video address, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova noted that “every time we turn on the TV, turn on radio or go on the internet, the quality of what we hear depends on media having acess to accurate and up to date information.”

“The obstacles in the way of our right to know take many forms,” she said, “from lack of resources, to lack of infrastructure to deliberate obstruction. Far too many journalists suffer harassment, intimidation, and physical assault – all in a day’s work.”

Bokova called on government and civil society “to promote freedom of information all over the world.”

Many of the sessions on the first day of the conference focused around promoting freedom of information laws at a state level, however media representatives from countries including Bangladesh and Bhutan noted that even where freedom of information laws were available, they were not always used effectively by journalists.

Dehli Bureau Chief of The Hindu and keynote speaker Siddharth Varadarajan implied that freedom of information laws were less critical to freedom of the press “than our inability as journalists to transcend market forces and commercial considerations… and tendency to report trivia.”

Newspapers in India regularly sold “campaign coverage packages” to politicians come election season, he noted, a practice which “seriously compromises citizens’ trust in media content.”

A further consequence of such practices, he added, was a sense of dissatisfaction among journalists “at our inability to use the power at our disposal.”

“We have a responsiblity to be tougher, harder, and to call a spade a spade,” he said.

In his address, Dr Sawad similarly emphasised the responsibilities that came with the freedom of the press.

“With every right comes responsibilities,” Dr Sawad said. “In a free nation with free expression, the media must not forget its obligations to citizens to report fairly and accurately.”

The Maldives, he said, “has a very young free media, coming out of a culture where it was state owned and regulated. We have the challenge of dispelling the myth that the state represents media.”

Dr Sawad explained since its election, the current government “has committed to a step-by-step dismantling of the Department of Information, formerly the ministry of Information, to replace it with a stronger private media.”

State broadcasters Television Maldives (TVM) and radio station Voice of Maldives (VoM) had been placed under the new Maldivies National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), “a separate corporate entity with its own board and budget.”

A key challenge for the fledgling private media however was capacity building and training of its journalists, he explained.

“Private media has a very hard task. A lot of you are just past high school, with a keen professional interest in the field. But as we settle down and lay the foundations of democracy, we have to have to have the capacity to deliver democracy. You cannot give that objective to someone without the capacity to deliver it – the government has delivered democracy, but it has yet to be delivered to the people. ”

“Before the government lies the task of training, educating and strengthening the free press. As we celebrate UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, I call on the media to take up the challenge to deliver democracy with a sense of responsibility.”

The sessions continue tomorrow when President Mohamed Nasheed will launch the Journalist of the Year Award and Sukumar Muralidharan from the South Asian Chapter of the International Federation of Journalists will launch the South Asia Press Freedom Report.


Politicians sponsoring gang violence, say police

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has claimed some politicians are using gangs to cause unrest, intimidate people and attack opponents.

Police said that last week’s violent political clashes between major political parties, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), were tied to gang violence.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that “police have learned some politicians have used gang members to create unrest.”

He said that while the MPS currently could not disclose the names of politicians linked to inciting gang violence, he assured that police “will take legal action against people suspected of being involved in recent violent demonstrations and attacks.”

Minivan News spoke to three gang members on 25 March, two of whom said although they were generally uninterested in politics, they had received financial support from politicians who would pay them for protection and to attack their opponents.

Better things to do

Shiyam added that because members of the special operation had been forced to concentrate on containing the political violence, there had been a corresponding spike in gang violence, burglary and street theft.

All of these had fallen when the special operations team began their work earlier this month, he said.

Shiyam said the special operation had returned to its work again in full force.

Last week, Deputy Commissioner of the MPS Mohamed Rishwan also said the recent political violence was hampering work and diverting resources from the special operation to curb gang-related crimes.

“As a consequence a large number of officers had to stop their work and interrupt their service to the people to go out to control and watch over political activities,” Rishwan said.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said police acknowledgement of politically-motivated gang violence was “a very serious statement [by police].

He noted that members of the MDP have previously accused senior DRP-PA politicians of being connected to gangs, “but police saying it makes the matter more urgent and credible.”

During his opening speech to the Maldives Donor Conference 2010, President Mohamed Nasheed referred to the matter, stating: “I don’t care whether you are a gangster, or whether you are a senior politician controlling the gangsters – if you attack, or orchestrate attacks, this government will take appropriate legal action.”

Zuhair said he hoped police would forward the relevant cases to the Prosecutor General so that they could be resolved in the courts.

Spokesperson for the MDP, Ahmed Haleem said “violence was normal under the previous regime, and DRP are doing the same thing now.”

Haleem said the DRP was trying to harm the country by trying to “stop aid and funds” from international donors.

He said the MDP was “a bit concerned” about politicians being tied to gang violence, “because some DRP MPs are physically involved in violence.”

DRP Vice President and Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef said the party performed “peaceful protests, not the inciting of violence”, and said police would be making statements “based on their opperational experience.”

“Many DRP meetings have been disrupted by MDP activists, who attack with stones and swords,” Shareef said, adding that shops and houses of DRP members had also been vandalised in the violence over the weekend.

“We are constantly receiving threatening calls from the MDP,” Shareef said, adding that “the ruling party should be more responsible and should not use the gangs.”

“There is a lot of gang violence connected to MDP, and I am worried that it is difficult to control our own activists because they have no protection.”

“If people see the ruling party is inciting violence,” Shareef warned, “the country will lose its peace.”


Girl abducted, drugged, filmed and gang raped by 15 men on Hithadhu

A group of 15 men abducted, drugged and gang raped a 20 year old girl on the island of Hithadhu in Seenu Atoll last Friday night, while reportedly filming the incident wit a mobile phone.

Regional commander for Addu Atoll, Chief Inspector Hussein Adam, said three men had been arrested in connection with the attack, which occurred around 8:30pm on Friday night.

”Two men came by on a motorbike while she was outside her house, and forced her to sit between them,” Hussein said.

The two men took her to an uninhabited area on the island, 30 minutes walking distance from where she was abducted.

”The 15 men forced her to drink a suspected liquid drug and she became drunk,” Hussein said. ”They used box cutters to threaten her.”

Atoll Commander for Addu Adam Niyaz said police were informed of the incident at 1:00am on Saturday morning by the girl’s parents, after she returned home.

Police took the girl to Addu Regional Hospital. Hussein noted that she was “unable to walk.”

Head of Addu Regional Hospital Ahmed Mohamed said the girl was brought to the  hospital on Saturday was discharged yesterday.

”There were no injuries outside her body,” Ahmed said, ”but as she was sexually assaulted by 15 men her sex organs were injured during the incident.”

Niyaz said the three men arrested in connection with attack had many police records involving drug offences and gang-related crimes.

He said Hithadhu police station was continuing to investigate the case.


Police sweeps arresting innocents, say gang members

Police had arrested 25 gangsters in an special operation police conducted to avoid gang violence in Male’ and make the city peaceful.

In a press conference yesterday, police noted that gangsters in Male’ were becoming more coordinated “and there has been a corresponding rise in planned and organised crime.”

Deputy commissioner of police Mohamed Rilwan revealed in a press conference yesterday that gangs had been observed adapting to police tactics and becoming more sophisticated in their approach to crime.

Rilwan said that when police raided gang areas and the houses of gang members during the recent crackdown, they found stashes of weapons and other items. These included knives, masks, mobile phones, toy guns, box cutters, watches and sunglasses.

Rilwan promised that police would make Male’ peaceful and ensure gangsters had “no more chances” to commit crime in the country.

During last week’s special operation against gang crime, police arrested 25 suspects including Ahmed Nafiz [Chika], Ahmed Rizam, Shifau Abdul Waheed [Shifa], Mohamed Ahusan [Ahu], Mohamed Aswad [Maxy], Hussein Razeen, Ahmed Shaz, Hassan Ali [Hassu], Adam Ziyad, Ahmed Husham, Ahmed Shiruhan [Shiru], Hussein Alwan, Ahsan Basheer, Ahmed Ismail [Ahandhu], Fahud Ibrahim, Fazeel Hameed, Ahmed Muaz, Rilwan Faruhath [Ilu].

Political connections

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair expressed concern that “some of the politicians use gangsters for political reasons.”

”It is not acceptable for politicians to use any other tool than words,” he said.

He said the gang situation in the city had worsened “because of the failed educational policies of the former government.”

”I am very confident that the police will make this a peaceful city,” he said.

A gang member calling himself ‘IJ’ told Minivan News that police had arrested “many innocent people” during the special operation.

”It’s okay to arrest people who are connected with a case they are investigating,” he said, ”but it was really bad that police arrested innocent people among us.”

He said the police were “arresting anyone they feel like, and keeping them in custody for a long period of time.”

As a result, the prisoners were “given a bad reputation and encouraged to become involved in crime.”

He said that it was good that police were making Male’ peaceful, “as people are afraid to walk the streets.”

”Gangs are not afraid of the streets, the only fear for us is the police,” he said.

He said he hoped police would show professionalism when they raided more streets in Male’, “and arrest only guilty people.”

Another gang member told Minivan News that the police could not make the the streets peaceful as long as he was there.

He said the police were arresting friends of criminals, “making their parents think they were also criminals. ”

”If someone visits us to play cards and chat, police would arrest him too,” he said. ”Then people think he’s also a gangster, so he gets angry and changes himself into one.”

He claimed that they had fought police “many times. They come and disturb us even if we were sitting to chat,” he said, ”which makes us angry and want to go against them. Then they arrest all of us.”

He said the police had confiscated a lot of gang property, including sofas and chairs which they had bought.

“The gangs are not gathering to do crimes, just to sit down and chat with friends,” he said.

Sub Inspector of police Ahmed Shiyam said the police were checking and arresting anyone they suspected of gang involvement, and acknowledged that sometimes people who were not gang members had been arrested.

Even though those arrested might get bad reputations, “there is no other way due to the situation in the country,” he said.


Police special operation nets 22 gang suspects

In a highly-publicised special operation intended to reduce gang crime in the capital Male’, police arrested 22 men suspected of being key players in gang violence.

Police sub inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the men were arrested in different areas of Male’ are were notable “gangsters” involved in gang violence.

Shiyam also said police had collected chairs, sofas and weapons from places where gangs lived, to stop gang members congregating, storing them in the police tow yard.

He said the special operation to protect Male’ from gang violence would not to be stopped until the city became a peaceful place.

Meanwhile, a group of NGOs including the Maldivian Detainee Network, Transparency Maldives, Rights for All, Strength of Society, Maldives Aid, Madulu, Democracy house and NGO Federation released a statement condemning the recent rise in gang violence in Male’.

The NGO’s reported that police statistics show that during last year there were 12 murder cases reported to police and 11 of them were sent to Prosecutor General’s office.

The NGOs called on the president and parliament to pass the necessary bills as soon as possible to avoid gang violence.

They furthermore called on the government institutions concerned with gang crime to fulfill their responsibilities.


Police seek cooperation to stop gang violence

Police are launching a major operation to minimise gang violence, reports Miadhu.

Police have communicated with the courts, the Prosecutor General’s office, People’s Majlis and the media.

Police said gang violence is rising, and a gang-related case is reported to the Police every 27 minutes. There have been thirteen deaths and many injuries in the last three years relating to these cases.

Police said the main reasons behind gang violence were lack of education, unemployment and drugs. Police said most gang members were aged between 15 and 21.

Police Commissioner Faseeh asked the media for their full cooperation. He said full cooperation from all concerned members was essential in abating crime.