Maldives Police Services have apprehended escaped convict Fariyash Ahmed at a café in Malé this afternoon.
Fariyash, 26 years, of Gaaf Alif Atoll Maamendhoo Island escaped from Maafushi Jail along with Ibrahim Shahum Adam, of Galholu Cozy in Malé, where both were serving a life sentence for murder on Friday (October 17).
Home Minister Umar Naseer at a press conference today said Fariyash was arrested while drinking a coffee by himself at Tatians café in the Henveiru ward of Malé. He had shaved his beard off, taken off his glasses and was wearing a wig.
Naseer said Fariyash is under interrogation regarding Shahum’s whereabouts, and said an armed group of soldiers will be working with the police in the search.
“An armed team of soldiers will work with a police team in the search for Shahum. They have been authorized to use their weapons should they face danger. They have the discretion to shoot,” Naseer told reporters.
If the commanding police officer believes the team is in a “dangerous situation” the police team will step back and allow soldiers to take over and shoot if necessary, he explained.
Shahum had no choice but to surrender or face “very sad consequences,” the minister warned and said the government will not bear any responsibility should Shahum get killed in the search operation.
“I inform Shahum and all those who know him, hand yourself over. The government will not bear any responsibility for loss of [his] life in what may happen,” he said.
Online newspaper Sun has claimed Shahum was sighted at Le Cute shop in Malé this morning. The police are looking through CCTV footage to identify the man, the newspaper has claimed. The police have declined to comment on the matter.
The minister has also offered a prize of MVR 75,000 (US$ 4,854) for information on Shahum and Abdulla Luthfee who had escaped from authorities in 2010 while he was abroad in India for medical treatment.
Luthfee had been serving a life sentence for his role in the 1988 coup attempt.
In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives on Sunday night (October 19), Naseer said the two inmates had used a broken saw to cut through 22 bars on a window, climbed onto the Maafushi Jail roof and used a rope made of bed sheets to reach the ground
They had also placed pillow dummies on their beds during a nightly headcount.
The saw may have been acquired from a construction site on the prison grounds, Naseer said.
“This wasn’t planned and done in a single day. It was done under a well-planned systematic attempt,” he added.
“There is no prison in the world from which someone or the other has not escaped from. The strength of a prison system is in how quickly we recapture escapees and return them to their cells,” he also said.
“We will find them. The government is willing to use all the powers vested in them to find them, recapture them and return them to prison.”
He also revealed that investigations were ongoing to determine whether prison guards were complicit in the escape.
“Nothing we have so far found in the investigation indicates any negligence or involvement of prison guards. However, if such a thing comes to our notice, we will take immediate action,” he said
Jumhooree Party MP and former Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz in parliament today called for an independent inquiry into the jailbreak.
Opposition MPs meanwhile contended that the government’s “negligence and irresponsibility” allowed the dangerous criminals to break out from a high security prison.
The Maldives National Defense Force’s (MNDF) appeal to MPs to stay in at night following the jailbreak is indicative of the prevailing state of fear and the government’s loss of control over “terror activity in the Maldives,” MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said.
Public fears over personal safety and security was “a characteristic of a failed state,” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP added.
The police have conducted searches on Maafushi, Himmafushi, Guraidhoo and Gulhi Islands, and continue to search vehicles and houses in Malé. The Coast Guard is helping the police conduct searches of boats.