Six Maldivians reported as latest to travel for jihad, taking one-year-old infant

A group of six Maldivians have travelled to Turkey to join the Syrian civil war, local media have reported.

The six Maldivians include three men, two women and a one-year-old infant, Haveeru, Sun, Vaguthu and CNM have reported. The six reportedly left the Maldives in December.

A police spokesperson said the case is under investigation.

Last month, Home Minister Umar Naseer reported that there are more than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars.

In November, a jihadist media group called Bilad Al Sham Media – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

Earlier that 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 travelling to militant organisation Islamic State-held (IS) territories.

Naseer told the People’s Majlis that police were monitoring persons with extremist religious views and were constantly watching alleged recruitment efforts. He insisted 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.

The police have stopped individuals attempting to leave the Maldives with the intention of joining civil wars through court orders.

“And the passports of some people have been withheld for a period determined by the court,” he continued, adding that Maldivian jihadis have also been brought back to the country with help from foreign law enforcement agencies.

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, said the minister.

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, he said, while a strategic action plan is also being implemented to combat religious extremism, which involves 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.

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.”

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