A suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali, Azlif Rauf, has died while fighting in Syria, his family has claimed.
Azlif’s brother wrote on Facebook on Friday that he had “lived like a lion and died as a hero.” The family was reportedly informed of Azlif’s death on Thursday night by Maldivians in Syria.
Sources close to the family told Haveeru that the Maldivian jihadis had sent a photo of the dead ex-military officer.
However, there has been no independent verification of Azlif’s death and opposition politicians have questioned whether he had gone to Syria.
A police media official said the police do not have any information on the case. The police are not investigating any cases involving Azlif at present, the official said.
Reliable sources told Minivan News in January that Azlif left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang and crossed the border into Syria.
Azlif was under house arrest at the time and police had forwarded terrorism charges against him to the prosecutor general’s office in relation to Afrasheem’s murder. However, the PG office had not filed the case at court.
A counter-terrorism expert told Minivan News today on the condition of anonymity that the reports of Azlif’s death were “not convincing.”
In other cases where Maldivians had died in Syria, there was confirmation from credible independent sources as well as reports from jihadist media, the source noted.
The death of most Maldivian jihadis were reported by online group Bilad Al Sham Media, which describes itself as “Maldivians in Syria.” The group says it represents Maldivians fighting with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra militant organisation.
The expert also questioned whether Azlif had been radicalised enough to leave for Syria.
Another possibility is that Azlif’s “associates here who wished to hide him” were spreading false reports of his death, the expert suggested.
Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the murder of Dr Afrasheem, had said Azlif had planned the murder in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession and claimed it had come under duress.
Speaking at an opposition alliance rally on Thursday night, ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Didi alleged that Azlif is hiding in Malaysia. He further alleged that tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb had facilitated Azlif’s departure while he was acting defence minister in early January.
After Humam alleged President Abdulla Yameen and Adeeb’s involvement in the murder last month, Adeeb accused the opposition of orchestrating the convict’s remarks in a “character assassination” attempt.
A senior police officer has meanwhile told Haveeru that Azlif is in Armenia while other sources claimed he was in Sri Lanka last week.
An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN) identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of a red car which may have been used in an abduction reported on the night Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.
Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint in front of Rilwan’s apartment building around the time he would have reached home on August 8.
The report also suggested gang leaders had been exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison, saying that they openly supported the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and recruited jihadists for the war in Syria and Iraq.