Crew member injured in fire onboard STO oil tanker

A crew member of a State Trading Organisation (STO) oil tanker en route to the gulf was injured in a fire accident yesterday, local media reports.

STO Managing Director Adam Azim told newspaper Haveeru that the incident occurred onboard the ‘Aihuras’ vessel while it was near the coast of the city of Mumbai in India. There was no oil on the ship when the fire broke out, he noted.

The burnt crew member was taken to a Mumbai hospital for treatment while the ship was undergoing repairs for minor damages caused by the fire.

“It was not a very dangerous incident. We would know of the injuries sustained by the crew member in detail after seeing the doctor’s report,” Azim was quoted as saying.


National airline expands services to India

Maldivian airlines have announced plans to expand regional services to a further three destinations in India this month.

The Island Aviation Services (IAS)-owned company is to introduce flights to Mumbai and Chennai as of tomorrow (November 15), operating services to both cities will three times per week.

Maldivian will simultaneously launch services to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh via Chennai, and new services to the capital New Delhi from Male’ to commence in April 2013.

The airline currently connects Trivandrum from Male’ daily.

The move comes after IAS inducted an A320 aircraft into its fleet configured with 12 business class and 138 economy class seats.

GMR Male’ International Airport Pvt. Ltd CEO Andrew Harrison noted that the growing number of tourists from India as well as Maldivians travelling to India would benefit from these new services.

“We look forward to further expansion of Maldivian’s routes to India and beyond for the benefit of passengers and cargo shipments,” he added.

Flights to and from Male’ and Mumbai will operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, whilst flights to and from Male’ and Chennai will operate Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.


Ten killed in Delhi briefcase bombing

An improvised explosive device (IED) killed at least 10 people and injured approximately 65 this morning at the high court in Delhi, India. UK’s The Guardian reports that the bomb was hidden in the briefcase which had been placed near the court’s reception center where people queue for visitors’ passes.

The bomb exploded at 10:14 am, a peak traffic time. The Guardian calls it the largest attack in India’s capital since a series of bombs went off in markets three years ago, killing 25 people.

India’s home secretary, RK Singh, said the attack “has all the signs of an IED explosion set off by a terror group,” The Guardian reports.

Reuters has reported that a militant terrorist group called Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, or HuJI, had taken responsibility for the attack.

Delhi’s high court was targeted earlier this year, when a minor blast on 25 May took place at approximately the same location. No casualties were reported.

US-based The New York Times reports that Indian intelligence agencies had been criticized lately for slackening security measures. The report stated authorities had received information about a possible terror threat to Delhi in July, which they turned over to local police.

Reports indicate that this and previous attacks in Delhi and Mumbai, India’s two most important cities, did not involve electronic communication- – common aspect of many terror plots. Officials consider this a “troubling pattern.”

Wednesdays are known busy days at the the Delhi court, which hears public interest litigations on that day. The court is also located within a mile of parliament. The Guardian notes that at one point the two buildings were temporarily connected to allow home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to deliver statements on the latest atrocity.

One MP allegedly called today’s bombing “an attack on the nation.”

In December 2001, the Indian parliament was targeted by a suicide bomber belonging to Islamist terror groups Jaish-E-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, based in Pakistan.


Mumbai bomb blasts kill 17, injure 131

Three bomb blasts in the Indian city of Mumbai have killed at least 17 people and and injured 131.

No organisation has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, which Indian authorities said were caused by explosives planted on motorcycles and a scooter.

Reuters reported that suspicion was falling on the Indian Mujahideen (IM), “an underground terrorist group sworn to avenge the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the neighbouring state of Gujarat.”

“The choice of neighbourhoods in south and central Mumbai suggested that, as in the past, the attempt was to terrorise the city’s businessmen, particularly from among its Gujarati community,” Reuters reported.

The first explosion occurred in rush hour at 6:54pm in the Zaveri bazaar, a well-known jewelry market. The second took place at 6:55pm at the Opera House, while the third bomb exploded at 7:05pm in the neighbourhood of Dadar.

The attack is the fourth major terrorist incident in India’s financial capital since 2003. The last attack, in November 2008, saw gunmen from Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) rampage through the city for three days.

The LeT was also blamed for an attack in July 2006, with 180 people killed when seven explosions destroyed trains on the city’s commuter network.

Reuters reported than plans to set up 5000 surveillance cameras across the city had been gathering dust despite vast sums of money poured into counterterrorism efforts.

“We see a lack of political will to take this [protecting the city against terror attacks] on on an emergency basis,” CNN-IBN reported.

“Mumbai is a soft target, it will always remain a soft target. The only way to combat this is through good intelligence, and that’s not there.”

India and Maldives counter-terrorism cooperation

Indian interest in the Maldives is partly prompted by counter-terrorism concerns. The Indian Ocean is, President Mohamed Nasheed said in October 2010, “India’s soft-underbelly.”

“Security issues in the Indian Ocean have lately become more and more serious. We see the Mumbai attack also as an Indian ocean issue,” Nasheed said at the time.

Indian newspaper The Economic Times noted that the Maldives landed on the Indian intelligence radar after Sultan Park bomber Moosa Inas was reported to have been linked to the LeT and had travelled to Kerala before the bombings, a popular recruiting ground for the group.

Indian news portal has previously quoted Indian intelligence bureau sources as saying that the LeT “has nearly 1,000 operatives active in the Maldives”, and that there was no way the group’s operations “can be curbed unless there is very good intelligence sharing with the Maldives.”

The intelligence sources claimed that in the last three months “there has been an increase in LeT activites in the Maldives, and several persons from [the LeT’s] Kerala group have slipped into the country and are busy setting up operations there.”

President Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed the notion that the LeT had presence in the Maldives or was looking to establish a base – rumours that sporadically appear in the Indian media – but has acknowledged “serious” issues concerning the emergence of radical groups with some members trained in Pakistan.


Kingfisher Airlines applies for permission for daily Mumbai-Male’ flights

Indian airline Kingfisher has applied for permission to launch a daily flight between Male’ and Mumbai from mid-March, reports Indian travel media.

The move would coincide with growing interest in the Maldives in the Indian tourism market, and the competitive off-season in the island nation during the European summer.

Air India flies daily to Bangalore and also runs a daily flight to Trivandrum.

Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has previously received permission to fly to the Maldives, however it has not made use of this so far.


Indian sailing expedition departs from Mumbai to Malé

Thirty-six sailors from regiments of the Indian Army currently at the College of Military Engineering (CME) have begun a sailing expedition from Mumbai to Malé and back, reports

Commandant of CME Lieutenant General USP Sinha said ventures such as this would “instill a spirit of adventure among young officers.”

The expedition will cover a total of 3,000 nautical miles (5,000 km), travelling from Mumbai to Colombo then Malé and back to Mumbai.

Leader of the expedition, Major Karunakaran of the CME said cruising non-stop on the Arabian Sea without any technological devices “called out to the adventurers in all of us.”

The sailors will set out on Yacth Trishna, a 36-foot Swan Class of 1970 vintage, which did an around the world trip in 1986.


Comment: We think violence is okay

This government clearly has every kind of trouble imaginable when it comes to the religious front. We have extremists, conservatives, suspected missionaries, Taliban freedom fighters, Afghan parliamentarians, jihadists, and zealots of every denomination. So what is the government doing about it?

This government is led by some of the most liberal minds in the country. But that is to their detriment. They cannot make liberal policies because they will be attacked for it. They are constantly threatened, warned, and then shunned by the conservative community. The only reason Adhaalath tolerates MDP is because MDP has fundamentalists like Fareed, and Adhaalath is getting their own ministry as a result of that tolerance.

But that does not seem to be enough. So now, the only way to get these people (meaning conservatives and not just Adhaalath) on our side seems to be to ensure that there is no doubt as to the fact that we will not unduly prosecute them – even if justice demands it.


When the Himandhoo residents attacked the police with knives, batons, and rocks they crossed the line. They chose violence. We cannot tolerate violence in any form. If they had blocked entry and sat in front of the mosque in non-violent protest, then this would be a different story. But that was not the case.

I’ve written about the human rights which must be afforded prisoners and today I want to remind everyone that these rights apply to our police officers as well. We all know members of the armed services, and we know them to be diligent, caring and disciplined citizens. And though there are institutional problems, they deserve to have the support of the people for working towards the lawful protection of the nation. When the Himandhoo residents attacked them, they crossed the line.

Mr President, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for you, but this is not something that members of the liberal community can find acceptable. Even though we understand the reasons for it, there needs to be more due process, if for no other reason than to honor the policemen who were forced to go up against them.

How can the Himandhoo residents just be released again? These are residents from an island which has been heavily influenced by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the largest terrorist group in our region. They constantly violate human rights, create a repressive environment, and allow child abuse in the form of underage marriage. They actually picked up arms against the government in defense of a radical and conservative ideology. Will a simple workshop convince them of the error of their ways? No.

Violence is okay

Instead we will send a message to the conservative community that their actions were okay. That it was understandable. I mean, they were only defending a mosque right? Only defending their holy place. So it is okay right? No. It is not okay. They blocked entry and threatened other Muslims. The police could have easily taken off their shoes and entered the premises in a respectful manner, but instead the Himandhoo residents chose violent confrontation.

Many specific mosques are becoming places that are forbidden to many of us now. Even in Male’ – many mosques are hostile to certain people praying in them and all forbid women from the main spaces. One of the first moves the Islamic Ministry made was to shut down all women’s mosques. And where was the backlash?

Those of us who do nothing are sending the message that this kind of action is okay. And this message is being spearheaded by government policy. Recently we released nine Maldivians who were arrested on the Waziristan-Afghanistan border.

When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was questioned about this, Shaheed said that “if we release anybody, it is because our laws require them to be released.” So then why were these people repatriated in the first place without any accompanying documentation of charges? If they have not been tried or convicted, then why are they not formally charged before being released? Why did Shaheed allow them to be brought to the Maldives without any investigation in their actions or collaboration with the Pakistani government? Why did he not seek information about the three Maldivians who died in Pakistani custody? And finally, why did he pass the buck to the Maldivian Police Service saying that the Maldives Police Service had determined that “the best thing to do was to release them to their families and put them under surveillance”, while their activities abroad were investigated?

So do the Police now have an international investigative unit? Do they have the money and capacity to pull off this kind of investigation? No. These people are the rest of our problem now. That we are repatriating our would-be jihadists is apparently of no concern. That Lashkar-e-Taiba is active in Himandhoo (and anywhere else in Maldives) is also apparently no big deal.

Against extremism

Though appeasement does seem to be rampant, at least we have been making some headway against fundamentalism. The rapidly formalised defense agreement with India was aimed at protecting our boarders from terrorism. The Maldives was a focus because Lashkar-e-Tabia, who was responsible for the Mumbai Terrorist attacks, as well as being linked to the Sultan Park Bombing and Himandhoo, is obviously active in our country. We have also objected, very mildly, to having Afghans come for official negotiations without informing the government beforehand.

All in all, we release violent jihadists and the Himandhoo residents. With Shaheem, from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, on the delegation who visited them, it’s quite obvious that this is a religious issue and not just a matter of the previous government “treating them unfairly.” It is an active policy of appeasement towards the conservative religious community. But toward what end? Maybe it is because there are so many of them that we can no longer stand against them. Maybe we are finally giving in to the threats and warnings. Maybe it is just so we have a little bit of support and cooperation. Or maybe it is so they don’t blow up the Holiday Inn once it finally gets issued its liquor license.

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