Maldivian militant killed in Syrian suicide attack, claims online jihadist group

A Maldivian fighting in the Syrian civil war was killed today in a suicide attack against soldiers loyal to Bashar Al Assad, online Jihadist groups have claimed.

According to these sources the Maldivian man was identified as 44-year-old Abu Turab – a man reported to have a wife and children in the Maldives.

One picture posted by the group allegedly shows the man bidding farewell to other militants on top of a tanker which the group claims was loaded with 6 tons of explosives about to be driven into a target, killing all those inside.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) spokesperson said they were unaware of such an incident or of any Maldivians leaving to fight in Syria.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said it has not had any such reports while the Maldives Police Service stated that such issues are handled by the MNDF until individuals are brought to the Maldives.

A second picture posted today shows the man identified as a Maldivian sitting around a gun with three other armed militants from America, Syria, and Central Asia.

According to online jihadi groups, Abu Turab was killed in a joint operation by Jabhat Al Nusra (with whom Turab was operating) and the Islamic Front, targeting soldiers loyal to Bashar Al Assad on Mount Arbain in the northwestern city of Edlib.

Abu Turab’s vehicle was one of four vehicles packed with explosives that was used in today’s attack.

The news was first broken on twitter by a group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) stating that a Maldivian had been “martyred in Syria in a martyrdom attack against the Nusayri [Shiah] soldiers of Bashar”.

According to the group, the Maldivian bomber entered Syria after a “long tiring journey” but remained fasting and spent months in the mountains before the attack. Turab, they said, asked a preacher named Sheikh Abu Burhan al-Suri to pray for him, upon which the Sheikh said he was no longer in need of such prayers.

BASM tweets were responded to by Sheikh Abu Sulayman al-Australi (an Australian preacher) who said that “Maldivians are some of the most courageous & well-mannered Mujahideen”.

According to BASM, Abu Sulayman is a member of the shariah council of Jabhat Al Nusra (Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Syria).

Within few hours the message was posted across local Islamist groups on the internet.

“Those who cheered their nation in that useless football tournament, will you not cheer the man from your nation who has just a few hours ago has been martyred in Syria blowing himself up in middle of the soldiers of Bashar?” A post in one Facebook group with nearly 3,400 members stated.

Turab’s final words, according to the group, were; “If one understands the true nature of this life, he would not feel happy to let out a single breathe except that he thanks Allah for it,” and “People really need to correct things, especially useless speaking.”

Maldivians in Syria

In October 2013 local media reported that two Maldivian men, aged 25 and 35 years, were apprehended from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on suspicion that they were leaving to join the Syrian civil war.

In a document published on their blog, BASM stated the members of their group had traveled to Syria through a transit country from numerous points of origin, noting that some of them were university students.

Their hope, according the document, is to establish an Islamic state which would ultimately “liberate the Islamic world” and establish the global Islamic caliphate.

“When we first came, we were met by an Islamic battalion of FSA [Free Syrian Army] who were guarding the borders and then we had to stay with them for a few days before we were able to move away from them to Ahrar al-Sham and after about a half month, we were able to move to our most desired group Al-Qaida of Sham, Jabhat a-Nusra which we found to be the best group in Syria and closest to the Salafi methodology,”  read the document.

This was reflected in their tweets which were critical of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) who disassociated themselves with Jabhat al Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) and have since fought each other frequently.

Minivan News has learned that BASM is a small but organised group with members situated in both Syria and the Maldives.

While no intent have so far been revealed of attacking local targets, BASM has criticised President Abdulla Yameen, describing his presidential win as “a victory for Jahiliyya [ignorance] over Jahiliyya” and has condemned the Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF) as “fighters in the devil’s path”.

They also criticised Shiah Muslims and claimed there are Maldivian Shiah Muslims whose growth should be “chopped off from its roots before it spreads”. Pamphlets against Alawites and Shiah Muslims have been distributed at local mosques.

BASM has also uploaded a number of religious lectures and songs to their Youtube page including ones from Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri and Maldivian members who are said to be fighting in Syria.

One video titled ‘The obligation of Jihad’ shows a masked man dressed in black holding a rifle preaching in the Dhivehi language. In the video, he says Muslim lands are being occupied and ruled by unbelievers from within and without, and any man who refuses to go to fight in such a situation will be punished in hell.

“The Maldives is even today being ruled by unbelievers, and if they are unbelievers we have to wage war against them,” says the preacher in the video – uploaded in December 2013.

Earlier this month Sri Lankan terrorism expert Dr Rohan Gunaratna suggested there were terror cells in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and India which are a “severe threat” to the South Asia region.

He also claimed that a Sri Lankan national Zakir Hussein who was recently arrested in India was planning to target locations in the Maldives.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile claimed there is a prevalence of extremist ideologies within the Maldives security forces.


Maldives desperate to maintain paradise image amid rising extremism: The Diplomat

Desperate to maintain its image as a tourist paradise, the Maldives is boosting co-operation with regional partners to combat the threat of militants, writes Berkshire Miller for current affairs magazine The Diplomat.

“Senior officials in Washington and New Delhi continue to express concern that madrassas funded by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have the potential to radicalise Maldivian young people through jihadist doctrine. Such fears were given some credence in 2006, when three Maldivians were detained in Sri Lanka on suspicion that they were using the country to transit to Pakistan to join a jihadi training camp. It’s with cases like this in mind that the Maldives’ National Central Bureau – which heads up intelligence and national security operations – remains invested in its partnership with Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigations Department to enhance intelligence sharing on terrorism and national security issues.

“More generally, India is alarmed by the growing presence of radicalism in the Maldives, and has offered its experience in detecting and responding to terrorist attacks. But setting aside the more immediate benefits for it of doing so, the Indian government also likely sees its co-operation with the Maldives through the prism of its grander strategic policy of targeting Pakistani-based terrorism in the region. Over the past few years, the Indian Coast Guard has been continuing its efforts to train Maldivian authorities on ways to avoid maritime terrorist attacks through enhanced surveillance of sea lanes and increased monitoring at key ports.

“The Maldives has little history linking it to terrorism, whether international or domestic. Still, local and regional authorities aren’t taking any chances. After all, Maldivian citizens still recall the Sultan Park bombing in the capital of Male in the autumn of 2007. While no one was killed in the attack, a dozen foreigners were wounded, prompting Maldivian business owners and politicians alike to roundly condemn the infringement to the islands’ harmony and the threat it posed to tourism there.

“State law enforcement authorities quickly rounded up nearly a dozen suspects (10 of whom were Maldivian citizens) within the first few days following the Sultan Park attack. Investigators eventually traced the bombing back to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and jihadi groups were widely reported to have based their operations. Nine of the 12 suspects – all Maldivian – were arrested in the FATA region, but were later released due to a lack of evidence that they were tied to the attack. While no legal case was made against the ‘Maldivian nine,’ intelligence officials in New Delhi and Washington understandably felt something was amiss with Maldivians ‘vacationing’ in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.”

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