Interpol denies media reports of Maldivians’ involvement in World Cup terror plot

Interpol has criticised media reports in the Maldives following claims that it was hunting two Maldivian nationals over alleged plans to attack the 2011 Cricket World Cup event, adding that it had no such information.

In a statement released today, Interpol said a report in local newspaper Haveeru inaccurately cited it as stating that it was searching for two Maldivians suspected of involvement in a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) terror plot.

Interpol also reiterated claims made earlier today by the Maldives’ National Security Advisor denying any knowledge of Maldivian involvement in any reported terrorist plots targeting the Cricket World Cup.

“An article entitled ‘Interpol on the hunt for two Maldivians involved in planning Cricket World Cup attack’ and published in the newspaper Haveeru on 26 March 2011 in the Maldives contains serious inaccuracies which require a correction by the newspaper and an express denial from Interpol,” the organisation stated.

“The article states that ‘Two Maldivian nationals, who are believed to be connected to a Pakistani terrorist group, are now wanted by the International Criminal Police Organisation – INTERPOL – for conspiring to  attack international cricketers during the ongoing  2011 Cricket World Cup.’  In fact, there are currently no Maldivians wanted for arrest by Interpol for conspiring to attack any of the 2011 Cricket World Cup events.”

Interpol claimed that a reported confirmation from ” officials” cited in the article, alleging the involvement of “four Pakistanis, two Maldivians and an Afghan” in an alleged terror plot had not been made as the organisation had not received any such information.

Interpol’s statement followed similar claims by Ameen Faisal, the Maldives’ National Security Advisor, who denied that the country’s security forces had been involved in any investigations concerning Maldivian involvement in alleged terror attacks targeting the ICC tournament.

Faisal today issued a statement claiming that Iqbal Mohamed, a suspect taken into custody earlier this month and identified in press reports as being involved in alleged plans to strike the tournament, had been arrested solely in connection to an earlier attack that occurred in Male’ in 2007.  After being taken into police custody on March 10, Iqbal was released by the Criminal Court this week after police reportedly did not supply required information to detain him further.

The statement from Faisal was released to media just twenty four hours after Maldivian police told Minivan News that they had not been supplied with any information relating to an Interpol hunt for two Maldivians accused of being part of a wider terrorist group targeting the high profile cricket tournament being held in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.

Attempting to clarify the arrest of a terrorist suspect made at Male’ International Airport earlier this month, Faisal stated that he had no knowledge of any involvement of Iqbal in plans to attack the Cricket World Cup as alleged by international media, including the Times of India.

“Iqbal Mohamed is a Maldivian citizen who had an Interpol Red Notice issued against him in connection to an improvised explosive device which was detonated in Sultan Park, Male’ on Saturday, 29 September 2007,” said Faisal in a statement.

“Iqbal Mohamed was travelling back to the Maldives from Pakistan, via Colombo, when the Interpol’s Major Events’ Support Team, who was in operation due to the ICC Cricket World Cup, identified him and informed the Maldivian authorities in coordination with the security agencies of our friendly neighbouring countries.”

Faisal added that the Maldives had been grateful for the assistance provided by Interpol and regional police services.

Iqbal’s arrest was related to questioning over 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.

Although police sources have previously claimed that the suspect was believed to have been in Pakistan at the time of the bombing, Iqbal had still been wanted by authorities as part of their ongoing investigations into the 2007 attack over an alleged role in the plan.


Criminal court releases suspect in alleged World Cup terror plot

The Maldives Police Service says it has no knowledge of claims made in international media that a Maldivian national was been arrested for alleged involvement in a planned terrorist attack on the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup currently being held in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India.

A spokesperson for the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) told Minivan News that it was unable to comment on allegations relating to security in another country, while a police official said that they had no information that a Maldivian was involved in any terrorism offences linked to the event and would not comment further on the matter.

According to the Times of India newspaper, Maldivian national Iqbal Mohamed, whom Minivan News reported earlier this month had been taken into custody at Male’ International Airport over his suspected involvement in the 2007 Sultans Park bombing in Male’, was arrested on suspicion of trying to attack this year’s Cricket World Cup event.

Police spokesperson Lance-Corporal Abdul Majeed Moosa confirmed to Minivan News today that the Criminal Court yesterday refused to extend Iqbal’s detention and ordered his release.

Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed said he would provide more information on the decision when staff returned to the office.

The Times has meanwhile reported that that Iqbal was suspected to have been part of plans to strike the cricket World Cup.

“A ‘terrorist’ suspected of planning to attack the cricket World Cup has been arrested after help from authorities across South Asia including in Pakistan,” the Times of India wrote, citing International Police Organisation Interpol’s Chief Ronald Noble.

According to Noble, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Maldivian authorities had worked together to identify, locate and arrest a “terrorist” on his way to the Maldives from Karachi on the grounds of “criminal intent”.

The arrest was made amidst a strict security crackdown in the region during the World Cup, with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik claiming that fears existed of a major unspecified terrorist attack at the high-profile event.

“There was a serious attempt of an act of terrorism during this (World Cup),” said Malik.

According to the Times of India report, local police authorities have already issued a general alert ahead of the tournament’s final match scheduled for April 2 in the city of Mumbai, while Australia was said to have yesterday updated a travel advisory for its citizens calling for a “high degree of caution” for anyone in the region during the event.

Speaking to Minivan News on 15 March, Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that Iqbal Mohamed had been arrested on arrival at Male’ International Airport from Pakistan earlier in the month, after regional authorities had alerted their Maldivian counterparts of his movements.

The arrest, according to Shiyam, was made in connection to an 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 at the time that although Iqbal Mohamed was believed to have been in Pakistan at the time of the Male’ attack, he had been wanted by police as part of their ongoing investigations into the 2007 incident due to an alleged role in the plan.

The sub inspector claimed that the Maldives Police Service was waiting for the Prosecutor General to present a case against the suspect ahead of any potential trial in the Maldives and had not been aware of any motivation for his return to the country.

“We really don’t why has had travelled back to the Maldives, but we have now arrested him.”

Mohamed was himself the subject of a red notice issued by Interpol, which was said to have drawn police attention after Interpol’s Major Events Support Team (IMEST) operating in Sri Lanka during the Cricket World Cup identified the suspect as he was travelling 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.

Following Moahmed’s arrest, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that he did not believe the suspect’s return to the Maldives 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.