Police start sea search for Maail, missing for 7 days

Maldives Police Services have initiated a sea search for Abdullah Maail, a 24-year-old from Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo who has been reported missing for seven days.

Police media told Minivan News that officers have finished searching the island where Maail was believed to have disappeared, and have now extended the search to the surrounding seas.

A police press statement released last week said that Maail was last sighted at Shaviyani Firunbaidhoo – an uninhabited island where he works as a farmer – and that he was last seen with his bags.

Police will work alongside the Maldives National Defense Force and have requested any information regarding Maail’s whereabouts be submitted to police hotline 332 2111.


Passports of four men held in connection with Rilwan abduction

Minivan News understands that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) has requested immigration services withhold the passports of four individuals in relation to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The news marks the first confirmation of progress in the search for the 28-year-old, missing for 19 days. The case is widely regarded as being the most complicated investigation ever faced by the service.

Further details of the police’s investigation have not been made public, although local news outlet Raajje.mv has reported the men under suspicion to be aged between 20 and 25-years-old. Two are reported to be from Gaaf Alifu Thinadhoo, one from Fuvahmulah, and a fourth man from Malé.

Immigration officials were not able to comment on these reports at the time of publication.

Rilwan was last seen on the 1am ferry to Hulhumalé on August 8, shortly before a man fitting his description was seen being forced into a vehicle directly outside Rilwan’s apartment.

Local media are also reporting that a vehicle was taken into police custody last week in relation to the incident.

Minivan News observed several men acting suspiciously in the Malé ferry terminal at the time of Rilwan’s appearance on CCTV footage at 12:44am, August 8.

With public criticism of the police’s investigation growing, the MPS has publicly accused both the family and media outlets of hindering its search efforts.

The family has offered a reward for information leading to the finding of Rilwan, with the figure raised to MVR200,000 yesterday.

Earlier this week, Rilwan’s mother gave an impassioned plea during a demonstration outside the People’s Majlis following the presentation of a letter urging MP’s help in the search.

“Please don’t do this. Help us. Please. I don’t know where he is. I do not know if he is alive. I do not know if he is dead,” Aminath Easa, 67-years-old, begged authorities.

With three days left before the parliament goes into recess, the Majlis has yet to take firm action on the journalist’s unprecedented disappearance, despite the issue being lodged in three separate committees.

After an urgent motion from Maldivian Democratic Party MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was resoundingly approved last week, with MPs subsequently calling for a speedy investigation.

MDP MP Ibrahim Shareef said he did not believe that lack of progress in investigating either the death threats or Rilwan’s disappearance was “a coincidence.”

MP Inthi himself reported receiving a death threat immediately after submitting the motion yesterday, while members of Rilwan’s family have reported intimidation while conducting their own search efforts.


Comment: #findmoyaameehaa

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Thursday night, two weeks ago, was the last time anyone saw Ahmed Rizwan Abdulla, 28-year-old journalist, blogger, human rights advocate and all-round great person.

A lot—yet nothing—has happened since Rizwan was reported missing to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on 13 August.

On 15 August Rizwan’s family and friends organised a search of Hulhumalé, the island neighbouring Male’ on which Rizwan lives on his own. Starting with the desolate, deserted areas—-of which there are many—-the search party combed the whole island. It was in vain.

On 16 August Rizwan’s friends and colleagues, who obtained CCTV footage from the Malé-Hulhumalé ferry terminal from the night he was last seen, identified him on camera buying a ticket and going into the waiting area to board the 1:00 a.m. ferry on 8 August. This footage has since been made public. For the next twenty minutes or so—-the amount of time it takes for the ferry to reach Hulhumalé—-Rizwan was on Twitter. Between 1:02 a.m. he sent out 11 (mostly re-) Tweets, beginning with this one, which said he had just boarded the ferry:

His last Tweet was at 1:17 a.m three minutes before the ferry would have reached Hulhumalé.  According to Rizwan’s employer, Minivan News, he sent a Viber message at 1:42 a.m. The newspaper further reports that according to Rizwan’s telephone service provider that his mobile phone was last used at 2:36 a.m. at a location in Male’. Since then, nothing.

There was a shocking development to the story a few days after the search for Rizwan began. On the night he was last seen, two witnesses saw a man being abducted from outside Rizwan’s apartment around 2:00 a.m. Minivan News, which withheld the information until it was made public by other news outlets, published details of the abduction on 18 August. The witnesses heard screaming and saw the captive, held at knife point by a tall thin man, being bundled into a red car which drove away at speed. The witnesses contacted the police immediately. They also recovered a knife from the scene. The police took a statement and confiscated the knife.

And that was that.

It is mind-boggling that there were no searches in Hulhumalé after eye-witness reports of an abduction, no sealing off of exits to and from the island, no investigation in and around the area of the abduction to at least ascertain who had been bundled into the car. If the police had done any of this, Rizwan’s family would have been aware of his disappearance so much sooner. Two weeks on, the police still don’t seem to have managed to locate the red car—-this on a 700 hectare island with the total number of cars totalling around fifty, if that.

Outrage at police ‘incompetence’ has grown steadily as days turn into weeks without news of Rizwan’s whereabouts. MPS’ reaction to the criticism has been petulant, like an offended prima donna. It issued a long statement demanding that the public stop criticising police given how brilliant they obviously are; and, unbelievably, proceeded to hold a press conference about Rizwan to which all media outlets bar his own Minivan News was invited.

Speculation that MPS does not want Rizwan found is becoming fact as time passes with no leads. How incompetent does a force have to be to remain clueless about how a person was abducted from a small island? How many red cars can be hidden on such a small piece of land, surrounded by the sea? How difficult would it be to locate the individuals caught on CCTV following Rizwan at the ferry terminal in Male’? It is common knowledge that life in Male’ is now governed by an ‘unholy alliance’ of ‘born-again’ fanatically ‘religious’ gangsters and thugs controlled by politicians and fundamentalists.

Whatever the police is driven by—fear, complicity, support—it is certain the government shares its ‘could not care less’ attitude. President Yameen’s callous response on 20 August to news of Rizwan’s disappearance confirmed this: ‘I cannot comment on anything and everything that happens, can I? The police are probably looking into it.’

It is as if the disappearance of a young man, a journalist and well-known human rights advocate—the first incident of its kind in the Maldives—is as routine as a mislaid shopping list. The President, who campaigned as saviour of the youth population, had not a word to say about the abduction and disappearance a young man of vast potential. Yameen chose, instead, to wax lyrical on his success at begging in China, having procured a 100 million US dollars in aid money for building a bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé, the island where Rizwan is feared to have been abducted from.

Who wants a bridge to an island that is so unsafe? An island where women are raped in broad daylight and young men disappear without a trace? Where gangsters and violent extremists rule, where the police turn a blind eye to crime and where the streets have no lights?

It is quite extraordinary that a president of a country sees no need to express concern for a citizen whose sudden disappearance has led to statements from international bodies ranging from the UN Human Rights Commissionerto media associations such as Reporters Without Borders, CPJIFJ and South Asia Media Solidarity Network as well as news outlets and human rights advocates in the region and across the world.

In some of this week’s news coverage, Rizwan’s name is on top of the world’s missing journalists’ list. According to Minivan News, many foreign diplomats based in Colombo have made the time to listen to its concerns about Rizwan’s abduction.

Perhaps prompted by diplomatic concern, over a week after Rizwan’s disappearance became public knowledge, the Maldives Foreign Ministry finally issued a hastily put together statement yesterday, full of factual and other types of mistakes, expressing a perfunctory concern hard to accept as sincere.

While the politicians, the gangsters and the religious fanatics with their support of Jihad, beheadings and other forms of killing trip over each other to ignore, laugh about, cover-up and prevent knowledge of what has happened to Rizwan, friends, family, and admirers of his deep humanity, are unflagging in their hopes and efforts to find him safe and sound.

It is on social media, where he is known as Moyameeha, that Rizwan has made his widest impact. The Maldivian Twitter community is especially bereft without his presence. It is not surprising. The off-line Maldivian society has been largely taken over by gangs, zealots and bigots. There is no safe place for people like Rizwan—with bold ideas, open minds and creativity—to come together in real life. So they gather on Twitter—the most free of modern media platforms—exchange thoughts, discuss politics, make poetry and music, argue, joke, laugh, and cry, become friends and form the kind of free, liberal and tolerant public sphere they cannot have off-line. Rizwan is a shining star of that community, one of its well-liked and giving members. The community wants him back.

Close friends have set-up a website, findmoyameeha.com, where everything that is officially  said and done in relation to Rizwan’s disappearance is gathered in one place. It also counts every passing second since he went missing. Friends have also set up Facebook pages dedicated to finding Rizwan while existing Facebook pages that support him have created a repository of online tributes:

Bloggers, who look up to him as one of the first to make an impact in the sphere, have been paying homage, re-finding and sharing some of his most moving posts. Rizwan’s friends discuss his poetry, his love of music (and obsession with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), his enthusiasm for Dhivehi language, folklore and history, and most of all his never-ending good nature and empathy. Even the deeply divided and highly politicised journalistic community appears to be waking from a deep slumber, and putting their differences aside to demand that efforts to find Rizwan be stepped up.

Over the past few years the Maldives Police Service has become highly adept at being ‘incompetent’, at being ‘unable’ to solve the crimes they don’t want solved while putting all their efforts into hunting down bootleggers, cannabis smokers and petty criminals. If they catch any major offenders, the corrupt judiciary lets them go; so why bother? This being police ‘best practice’, a majority of the Maldivian population now choose to ‘forget’ unsolved crimes, stop asking questions, and carry on as nothing happened.

Not this time. Rizwan’s family, friends, supporters and like-minded journalists are not going to stop asking questions and looking for answers. Because if they do, it is the last nail in the coffin of Rizwan’s vision—shared by those looking for him—of a tolerant Maldivian society in which people are free to think, embrace diversity and difference, be creative, live safely and have the right to peace and happiness.


Missing 15-year-old girl found

A 15-year-old girl gone missing in the capital Malé on July 27 was found yesterday, police have revealed.

A family member found Mariyam Nafha Nasir, of Huvadhumaage from Thaa Vilufushi, near the Islamic Bank at around 3:30pm.

Police began searching for the minor on July 30 when her family reported that she was missing.


MNDF searches for missing Dhuvaafaru boat passenger

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has launched a search operation for man who went missing during a boat journey between the capital Malé and Dhuvaafaru, in Raa atoll, on Friday.

Mohamed Shaneez, 36, is reported to have last been seen between 2:45am and 3am on Saturday, with fellow passengers only noticing his absence when the boat arrived in Dhuvaafaru at 9am.

The boat made a 6am stop at Maakurathu island, with conflicting media reports as to whether the Shaneez was still on board at this point.


Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks found near Sumatra

Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks were found early this morning by an oil tanker off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The men, 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll, went missing May 4 aboard the fishing vessel “Azum”. The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll.

“An oil tanker registered in the Marshall Islands, travelling to China, found the two men,” Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News today (May 25).

“They were 987 miles away from the Maldives, 300 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia,” said Raheem.

The Coast Guard was contacted early this morning at 6:10am and spoke to Hassan Rasheed, explained Raheem.

“After so many days they are in good condition, a bit weak, but OK. It is very good news, we are happy they have been found in good health,” he added.

Raheem was unsure of the reason for the Azum dhoni to drift so far off course.

“I don’t believe their boat would have had fuel after such a long period of time, there also could have been problems with the engine,” he speculated.

“The oil tanker will be stopping in Singapore on May 28 and we’ll try to get them while it’s docked,” said Raheem.

Jaufar Rasheed, Hassan Rasheed’s brother, told local media that he spoke with Hassan today after he called from a Singaporean number.

“He called and said that they had been picked up by a Singapore boat. He could not say how the other was doing. He managed to say that the dhoni sank and the two were castaways on the sea for a long time. He then asked how his wife and child were doing and started crying. Then the call got disconnected,” Jaufar said.

Lost at sea

Earlier this week, a Maldivian national reported missing May 9 after he departed Fares-Maathoda Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll via dinghy was discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.

The MNDF confirmed Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.

The MNDF recently “downgraded” search and rescue efforts, by halting aerial operations, to locate four individuals missing at sea.

Although three of the four missing men have now been found, the search continues for Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll.

Sammoon was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after being swept away from the island by the current.

“Still we haven’t given up hope, but this person was different because he was not in a vessel,” said Raheem.

“We recovered his surfboard the first day he went missing, so he will not have anything [to stay afloat] like the others,” he noted.

“His chances are less, but you never know. Even after so long, we are still hoping for the best,” he added.

Government authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following the “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.

The MNDF Coast Guard can be contacted through the toll free number 191, 339-8898, 339-5981, or via fax 339-1665, with any information regarding Sammoon.


Search for missing surfer underway in Huvadhoo Atoll

A search and rescue operation conducted by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Coast Guard is underway to find a Maldivian surfer lost at sea in the south of the country.

Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll (the north-eastern half of Huvadhoo Atoll), was reported missing around 4:30pm Saturday (May 4), MNDF Media Officer Abdulla Ali told local media.

“The Coast Guard are now working at the scene after one from the three [young men] who went into the sea was reported missing,” Abdulla said.

The Island Council was informed Sammoon was missing at 3:20pm and promptly informed the MNDF and Police Services, Kolamaafushi Island Council President Ahmed Jameel told local media.

Sammoon was with two other young men and was reported as having a surfboard with him when he entered the sea.

“The three of them together went to the sea. The kid who has gone missing, he was swept away by the current after he went a bit far out into the sea,” said Jameel.


Missing man from Fuvamulah found dead

The body of a missing 30 year-old Fuvamulah man, Mohamed Nafiz, has been found dead on the shore of Fuvamulah.

Nafiz was declared missing by police on January 24, at 8:00pm.

Police said the body was discovered yesterday morning at 6:27am in an area of Fuvamulah beach called ‘’Ambulu fannu’’.

Police said a forensic team and investigative team had been dispatched to the island to investigate the case, and had confirmed the body was Nafiz.

In a statement, police said fingerprints of the dead body found on the beach matched those of the missing man.

The body was discovered while Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) divers and police officers were searching for him.

Nafiz was last seen alive when he and two other friends of the same age arrived to Fuvamulah from Addu City.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that two men have been arrested in connection with the death of Nafiz.

Haveeru reported that his family alleged he was killed by the two friends who had accompanied him to Addu.

According to ‘Haveeru’, the clothes Nafiz had been wearing were discovered on the beach, wrapped around 19 bullet-sized packets containing illegal drugs.

A councilor of Addu City, on condition of anonymity, told the paper that Nafiz may have drowned after jumping off a boat to get to shore, after attempting to avoid police officers.

Nafiz’s uncle told Haveeru that Nafiz left Fuvamulah to go fishing but later said he and his two friends had gone to Addu to traffic illegal drugs into the island.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.


Search for missing Japanese husband persists

Maldivian authorities are working with the Japanese Embassy in Colombo to find the husband of the Japanese woman whose body washed up at the Adaaran Huduranfushi Island Resort last week.

A female body found on August 21 was confirmed to belong to the Japanese woman, age 28, who went missing from the resort with her husband, age 37, on August 17, reports Haveeru.

Local police officials said the body had decomposed after several days in the water, and DNA tests were needed to confirm it’s identity.

Preliminary investigations show drowning as a cause of death. There was no clear indication of foul play.

Management at Adaaran Huduranfushi discovered that the couple had gone missing after they missed two consecutive meals. Resort management immediately notified local authorities, who launched a search for the couple.