More than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars, reveals home minister

More than seven Maldivians are currently fighting in foreign civil wars, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer revealed at the People’s Majlis today.

Responding to a query during minister’s question time from former police commissioner and Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz about the ministry’s efforts to prevent Maldivians joining civil wars in foreign nations, Naseer said police were monitoring persons with extremist religious views.

“In such cases, persons attempting to leave abroad with the intention of joining civil wars have been stopped with court orders and prohibited from leaving,” he said.

“And the passports of some people have been withheld for a period determined by the court.”

Maldivian jihadis have also been brought back to the country with help from foreign law enforcement agencies, he added.

However, police faced difficulties in proving guilt at court of persons intending to join foreign civil wars, he continued, suggesting that the evidentiary standard should be lowered for terrorism cases.

Police were also working with the Islamic ministry to provide religious counselling and advice to discourage Maldivians from flying overseas to fight in civil wars, Naseer said.

Efforts were meanwhile underway to establish an efficient mechanism for taking action based on intelligence information, Naseer said.

While neighbouring countries provide assistance in returning Maldivians intending to travel for jihad, Naseer said the government was unable to bring back Maldivians who have made their way into Syria.

The government is studying a recently-approved UN security council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters, Naseer said, and would comply with obligations.

A strategic action plan is also being implemented to combat religious extremism, he added, which involved prevention of radical views in public schools.

Asked about efforts to prevent recruitment in the country, Naseer said the government has banned independent prayer congregations across the country.

Naseer denied claims by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik that Maldivian students who went to Sudan through the Islamic ministry in 2012 are involved in violent conflicts.

He also denied MDP MP Abdul Bari Abdulla’s allegation that government ministers were involved in a “network” for recruiting Maldivian jihadis with help from foreign terrorist organisations.

Police intelligence officers were constantly monitoring alleged recruitment efforts, Naseer said, insisting that foreign terrorist organisations or religious extremists would not be able to interfere in domestic affairs.

“The number of Maldivians participating in foreign wars would be proportionately much lower than large European nations,” he said.

Islamic State

Last month, a jihadist media group called Bilad al-Sham – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

Earlier in the month, Sri Lankan police detained three Maldivians who were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria through Turkey.

The three – two men aged 23 and 25, and a woman aged 18 – were from the island of Madduvari in Raa atoll and were released from custody upon being brought back to the Maldives.

The incident followed reports of a couple from Fuvahmulah and a family of four from Meedhoo in Raa atoll traveling to militant organisation Islamic State-held (IS) territories to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

A UN report obtained by the UK’s Guardian newspaper earlier this month observed that foreign jihadists were now travelling to Syria and Iraq on “an unprecedented scale”.

The report mentioned the Maldives as one of the “unlikely” places from which IS supporters have emerged.

Meanwhile, a protest march took place in the capital, Malé, in September, with around 200 participants bearing the IS flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

Dunya’s remarks followed Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.

“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.

Shaheem had also appealed for Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars and has recently defended the government’s record on extremism before the Majlis.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed that up to 200 Maldivians are on jihad, alleging that a vast majority of them are ex-military – a claim vehemently denied by the security services.

“Radical Islam is getting very very strong in the Maldives, their strength in the military and in the police is very significant. They have people in strategic positions within both,” Nasheed said in an interview with UK’s Independent newspaper.

Related to this story

Islamic minister defends government policy on extremism

Police detain Maldivian jihadis caught in Sri Lanka

Police arrest Imam of unauthorised independent prayer congregation

Islamic Minister advises Maldivians against participating in foreign wars


Police and MNDF on recruitment drive

The Maldives Police Services has issued an advert today seeking 50 new police officers.

Meanwhile, the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) has said it has received 470 applications for 45 newly opened jobs.

The recruitment drive for security officers comes amidst criticism over high defense spending.

The proposed state budget for 2014 allocates MVR 876.7 million (US$ 57 million) for the defense sector – 5.3 percent of the MVR 17.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) budget.

Meanwhile, the World Bank in a report published in November said the Maldives’ already excessive wage bill had ballooned in 2013 due to salary increases for the police and military, as well as the Supreme Court ordered back payment of civil service wage cuts.

The Maldives is spending beyond its means, the World Bank has said.

According to the MNDF, 45 recruits will be chosen based on a process involving aptitude, fitness, medical tests and a final interview.

The current recruitment drive is expected to staff Marine Corps, Special Forces, Fire and Rescue Service, Special Protection Group, Military Police, Medical Service, Corps of Engineers, Service Corps and Coast Guard. The minimum requirements for recruits include being of 18-28 years of age and completing tenth grade with at least four passes.

MPS is seeking 25 female and 25 male officers for the police constable rank.

The former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan and current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have both courted the security forces, offering increased pay and benefits to the military and police.

Mutinous elements of the police and military precipitated the resignation of the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

A special housing program for military personnel was announced during Dr Waheed’s administration after retired colonel Mohamed Nazim was appointed as Defence Minister.

Nazim, whom the opposition MDP accuse of playing a lead role in bringing down President Nasheed’s government in a ‘military coup’, was reappointed as defence minister by President Yameen.

Earlier this year 50 Hulhumalé flats were awarded to MNDF officials, and foundations were for another 300 were laid.

During his presidential campaign, President Yameen pledged to retain this program and to further improve the military by providing resources and amending laws to empower the institution.

Yameen also pledged to provide accommodation for families of soldiers posted outside their residential islands. Some of these have been included in his first 100 days road map.

Following his re-appointment under Yameen, Defence Minister Nazim announced 72 new flats will be built for the MNDF in Male’, and said he intends to establish a TV Channel and a day-care center for children of military officials. Facilities at the ‘Senahiya’ military hospital are to be improved and the hospital is to be opened up for public.

Nazim has also said the military intends to establish a welfare system that does not rely on the state budget.

The MNDF cooperative society SIFCO has registered a joint venture “Sifainge Welfare Kunfuni (SIWEC)” with the government to fund military welfare services. SIFCO owns 90 percent of the company.

SIWEC has already invested in the tourism industry and has started development of “Uthuru Thilafushi” for military use and has expressed an interest in real estate in the future

In his recent trip to India, Nazim sought India’s help in strengthening the Maldives military, obtaining a helicopter. India has also pledged to provide a landing craft.