Artists protest exclusion of Nasheed paintings from Minivan50 exhibition

A group of local artists staged a protest at the national art gallery today over the exclusion of paintings depicting former President Mohamed Nasheed from an exhibition organised by the education ministry.

The exhibition, launched yesterday, featured artwork and handicraft by students from 32 schools as part of events planned by the government to mark the upcoming golden jubilee of the country’s independence.

“Nasheed is said to be the Mandela of the Indian Ocean and I personally have a lot of respect for him. That is why I chose to paint him,” 18-year-old Mohamed Raaif told Minivan News today.

The Maldives National University student explained that his painting was initially put up, but he later discovered that it had been removed.

Raif MDP painting
Mohamed Raaif

Raaif said a teacher told him that the organisers claimed his painting  was of “a terrorist” and could not be displayed.

The opposition leader was found guilty of terrorism on Friday night (March 13) and sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Education ministry officials in charge of organising the exhibition could not be reached at the time of publication.

A second painting by a student featuring the former president was also removed.

However, artwork featuring other politicians with blurred faces were displayed at the exhibition.

Raaif said he spent three days working on the painting and had stayed up all night to complete it. He said he was hoping to raise funds for his mother’s backbone surgery as the family was currently facing financial constraints.

He added that he did not have any intention of politicising the painting. However, Raaif said he associated the theme of the exhibition – freedom or independence – with former President Nasheed.

“Not free yet”

Online news outlet CNM reported that the second banned painting of Nasheed was from a grade ten student at the Addu20482_941120079255989_6670794182747816048_n City Feydhoo School.

“That photo is of a terrorist. Photos of terrorists cannot be promoted,” organisers allegedly said, according to an anonymous source.

Meanwhile, a group of about 30 people, including several artists, staged a silent protest inside the art gallery today, mingling with members of the public and holding up prints of the banned Nasheed paintings.

The exhibition was open to the public with free entrance.

The protesters also carried placards calling for freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the constitution and stuck posters on the gallery walls that read, “Not free yet!” and “Minimum 50 years in prison.”

“The function of freedom is to free someone else,” read one of the posters, quoting Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate, Ai Weiwei.

“The work of art was a scream for freedom. Minivan [independent] 50 has not reached us yet!” read one of the placards held up by a protester.

An artist at today’s protest, Kareen Adam, told Minivan News: “The state cannot dictate to us what we can paint, draw, write or think etc. They should have called this exhibition ‘freedom within boundaries’ instead.”

Others artists said the organisers were sending a negative message to youth by banning the paintings of Nasheed, stating that former President Nasheed was an ineradicable part of recent Maldivian history.

Around 4:30pm – half an hour after the exhibition opened for the day – protesters told Minivan News that police asked them to leave as organisers had said the art gallery was closing.

A group led by Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali ‘Steps Ayya’ Shahid meanwhile arrived and began tearing down the material pasted on the walls.

“We will not keep paintings of terrorists,” one of the men allegedly said.

Protesters said the men tore down the paintings and ripped up the posters as police officers watched impassively.

A police officer was also photographed ripping a poster.

Steps Ayya Art Gallery protest
Youth Ministry Coordinator Steps Ayya. Photo by: Munshid Mohamed


Police told the protesters that the men had clearance to enter the gallery as they had passes of government coordinators.

One of the protesters took a photograph of the men and was allegedly pushed away.

The men also pushed out the protesters from the gallery. Protesters who spoke to Minivan News asked not to be named as they feared becoming targeted and said they did not have confidence that police would provide protection.


Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

Government will ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal conviction, says spokesperson

Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen


MMA denies US suggestion it has knowledge of terrorist funding

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has rejected claims by the US State Department that it has any knowledge of funds being used to finance terrorist activities abroad (May 11).

The MMA’s statement came in response to a report from the US government that the authority believed funds from the Maldives were being used to sponsor terrorist activities.

“The MMA has neither received nor communicated any information regarding confirmed operation of terrorist financing activities,” said the MMA.

The US Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 claimed that criminal proceeds were coming from hawala systems (informal money transfer networks) to transfer money between islands.

“Maldivian authorities believe that funds are currently being raised in Maldives to support terrorism abroad; however, there is no reliable information regarding the amounts involved,” read the US report.

“While no official studies yet have been conducted, the Maldivian Central Bank believes that criminal proceeds mainly come from domestic sources, as a large percentage of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) are related to Maldivians,” it continued.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has today cited the US report as evidence that the government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party strongly condemns the government’s failure to bring an end to terrorist and extremist activities as funds are raised in the Maldives to fund terrorism abroad,” read a press release today.

The party suggested that examples of Maldivians engaging in extremism and terrorism was on the rise, suggesting the government was not doing enough to resolve organised criminal activity in the country.

In response to the US report, the MMA has contended they have not received any confirmed suspicious transaction reports related to terrorist financing in the Maldives through formal or informal money transfer networks.

The authority also expressed confidence in the industry’s framework for preventing such operations, adding that any companies that are under their supervision are subject to the Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations.

AML/CFT legislation drafted by the MMA was passed by the People’s Majlis last month and ratified by President Abdulla Yameen on April 13.

The new law introduced rules governing financial transactions and the inflow and outflow of money from the Maldives.

“We are pleased to note that most of these financial institutions have internal policies, procedures and programs to implement those obligations,” the MMA statement added.

The US State Department had further noted growing concern since 2010 “about the activities of a small number of local violent extremists involved with transnational terrorist groups”.

“There has been particular concern that young Maldivians, including those within the penal system, may be at risk of becoming radicalized and joining violent Islamist extremist groups. Links have been made between Maldivians and violent extremists throughout the world,” the report stated.

The department also suggested that the Maldives has few laws which effectively control the movement of people and money into and out of the country, adding that due to its “sprawling island geography and insufficient technological capabilities” the coastguard could not effectively patrol the territory.


Maldivian terrorist was brainwashed in Pakistan, claims brother

The Maldivian citizen who conducted a terrorist attack against Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in 2009, was brainwashed during his madrassa education in Pakistan, claims his brother.

On May 27, 2009, Ali Jaleel – along with two other men – stormed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in Lahore and detonated a car bomb that killed about 30 people and injured 300.

Jaleel allegedly received funding from a US citizen, Reaz Qadir Khan – currently charged in the US with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist – to pay for admission into a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Jaleel was brainwashed while studying at the Pakistani madrassa Jamia Salafia seminary, his brother Jalla claimed in an investigative feature story, conducted by US publication The Oregonian.

“He had been brainwashed,” Jalla told the US publication. “He thought jihad was the best way to meet God.”

Jaleel began his studies at the Jamia Salafia seminary in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in 1995. When Jaleel returned to the Maldives a year after beginning his studies at the Pakistani madrassa, he was “different”, according to The Oregonian.

Jalla explained that in addition to the changes in Jaleel’s appearance – he grew a beard and wore salwars, a popular form of Pakistani dress – “Ali was righteous and distant”.

Although the brothers previously had a very close relationship, a rift began to develop due to Jaleel’s new-found ideology and behavior.

By 2001, jihad became the only thing that mattered to 22 year-old Jaleel, who spoke of emigrating to Yemen and “being a messenger for Allah” and had abandoned his previous dreams of becoming a “sports here”, according to Jalla.

Madrassa drive

In the late 1970’s, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom wanted to westernise the islands to prepare Maldivians for the introduction of international luxury tourism and believed education was “the key”, according to The Oregonian.

However, few educational options were available in the Maldives beyond a 10th grade education, with opportunities to study abroad limited to “well connected” Maldivian families.

India and Pakistan responded by offering inexpensive postsecondary education opportunities to Maldivian citizens at religious schools, beginning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

“It was very cheap. Pakistan said, ‘Give us your kids, we will teach them the Quran,'” President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told The Oregonian, in regard to the “madrassa drive.”

Maldivian government officials began expressing their concern in 2006 that Maldivians were returning from their madrassa studies in Pakistan with radical beliefs, according to the US publication.

Imad claimed that the Maldivian government is no longer sending students to study in Pakistan, because “the risk is perceived to be too great”.

“When people say, ‘jihadis,’ we’re scared, damn scared,” Imad said. “It’s going to hurt our economy.”

Unclear government policy

Whether Maldivian students are still traveling to Pakistan for their postsecondary studies, or if there is a monitoring policy in place for the madrassas they are attending, remains unclear.

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Minivan News to ask the Education Minister.

The Education Minister Asim Ahmed and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdullah were not responding to calls at time of press.

Religious conservatism and extremist violence have been increasing in the Maldives over the past decade, while incidents of Maldivians joining overseas jihadist groups are becoming more common, according to a 2013 report published in the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel, a publication based out of the West Point military academy in the US.

The report found that education in foreign madrasas has also contributed to growing extremism within the Maldives, with students “unwittingly attending more radical madrasas” and preaching these views upon their return.

“The offer of free education in madrasas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is widely acknowledged as a core means of radicalising Maldivians locally, with well-meaning parents sending their children off on scholarships to ‘study Islam’,” the report states.

Following the 2007 terrorist attack in Male’s Sultan Park, “Gayoom himself warned of this problem”.

“Maldivians are influenced by what is happening in the world. They go to Pakistan, study in madrasas and come back with extreme religious ideas,” the report quoted Gayoom as saying.

However, in August 2012, the Maldivian government said there was no truth in claims Maldivian citizens were being radicalised at Pakistan-based madrassas, following the publication of the US State Department’s 2011 terrorism report.

Active steps had been taken against permitting clearance for local students to study in any madrassas in Pakistan, President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said at the time.

“No Maldivians right now are being trained in Pakistani madrassas. Steps are being taken to ensure this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and authorities in Pakistan,” he said. “We will not issue visas to go there in this regard. So to say that such a threat exists is definitely not true.”

However, the following month, former State Minister of Education Aminath Ali highlighted the need to simplify the Pakistani visa procedure for Maldivian students hoping to enter the country’s higher-learning institutions.

In early 2010, then-Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik told Indian media that young Maldivians are being recruited by militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan to wage ‘jihad’.

Waheed claimed an increasing number of young Maldivians “are embracing a version of Islam which is more strict than the traditional Islamic values [of the Maldives].”

In late 2010, a diplomatic cable was leaked that highlighted United States diplomats expressed concern back in October 2008 regarding the activities of “al-Qaida associates” in the Maldives.

“While many Maldivian participants of extremist online forums aimed to ultimately fight Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, mid-October 2007 debrief information following the September 29 bombing in Male’ that targeted tourists indicates at least two of the operatives participated in the attack in exchange for travel from the islands after the operation and arranged study at a madrassa in Pakistan.”


US citizen arrested for funding Maldivian terrorist in Lahore bombing

A US citizen has been charged in the States with conspiracy to provide material support to a Maldivian terrorist who helped carry out a deadly attack in Pakistan in 2009.

48-year-old Reaz Qadir Khan, a waste water treatment plant operator for the city of Portland, US, was arrested on Tuesday (March 5) on a charge of providing advice and funds to Maldivian national Ali Jaleel.

On May 27, 2009, Jaleel – along with two other men – stormed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in Lahore and detonated a car bomb that left around 23 people dead and a further 300 injured.

Prior to the attack, US media reported that in 2006 Khan had received an email from Jaleel “goading” him about his past devotion to seek martyrdom for Allah.

“Where are the words you said with tears in your eyes that ‘we shall strive until Allah’s word is superior or until we perish’???” the email stated, according to US publication The Oregonian.

Following the message, Khan had then allegedly communicated and provided financial backing through email to Jaleel and his family, making it possible for the Maldivian to attend a training camp in Pakistan ahead of the 2009 bomb attack.

The emails cited in the indictment against Khan – sent in October and November 2008 – were said to have included a coded note from Jaleel telling Khan that he needed US$2,500 to pay for admission into a terrorist training camp.

The Oregonian reported that Khan had replied to Jaleel instructing him to pick up the training camp money from one of his associates.

Jaleel, who later responded saying he only needed US$1000 of the US$2,450 that had been sent, was then advised by Khan to send the remaining money to his two wives in the Maldives, The Oregonian reported.

The indictment does not cite that there had been any other emails between November 2009 and the May 27, 2009 ISI attack.

However, US media reported that less than a week after the bombing, US$750 was wired from Khan to one of Jaleel’s wives from an Oregon store.

Khan, who has pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Tuesday, could face life imprisonment if he is convicted at trial, US media reported.

According to The Oregonian, Khan must now remain in his Portland home until his trial on the terrorism-related charge begins.

Local media reported that Jaleel, who lived at H.Moscowge in Male, featured in a video on the internet showcasing his terrorist training and subsequent attack.

A member of Jaleel’s family told local newspaper Haveeru back in November 2009 that he had left “around a year ago” and that there had been “no further communication with him”.

Jaleel had been caught once before whilst on jihad and was sent back to Maldives. On 26 December 2006, he was also sentenced to two years’ house arrest for giving religious sermons and preaching without a licence, local media reported.

“Martyrdom was certain”

In a video released by Al Qaeda’s media outlet, 30-year-old Jaleel, referred to as Mus’ab Sayyid, can be seen speaking in front of the camera surrounded by an assortment of weaponry.

Jaleel calls for his teachers and those he knew who had taken the status of scholars to visit the Mujahideen and make “decisions” based on what they saw.

“I want my blood to be the bit of the carpet which the Mujahideen have painted from their blood. The red carpet which would take the Umar to its glory,” Jaleel says in the video.

The footage shows Jaleel going through various stages of training, including throwing what appears to be a hand grenade and firing various weapons. The video then cuts to footage of the attack.

A white van carrying armed men pulls up to what appears to be a police check point, before two men disembark and open fire on various individuals manning the post.

The van continues through the checkpoint before briefly stopping beside two men who had hidden behind a barricade, at which point the armed men appear to shoot them from inside the vehicle.

The video then shows the same white van pulling up to a large gate, before detonating the explosives.

The Pakistani government said at the time that the car bomb attack was carried out in apparent revenge for an army offensive against Taliban militants in that nation’s north-western Swat region.


Comment: Maldivian government endorses Deobandi Islam, the religion of the Taliban

The Religious Unity Regulations have provided the clearest indication yet of the official direction religion in the Maldives is taking: towards Deobandi Islam, the religion of the Taliban.

Among 36 institutions of Islamic learning approved by the regulations is the ultra-orthodox Jamia Darul Uloom in Deoband, India and at least six affiliated madrassas.

Established in 1867 to bring together Muslims who were hostile to British rule, the Deoband madrassa, created the so-called ‘Deobandi Tradition’ committed to a literal and austere interpretation of Islam. For the last 200 years, the Deobandi Tradition has argued that the reason Islamic societies have fallen behind the West on all spheres of endeavour is because they have been seduced by the amoral West, and have deviated from the original teachings of Prophet Mohammed.

It is the fundamentalist Deobad Da-ul-Uloom brand of Islam that inspired the Taliban movement. Many of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are graduates of the Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. Mullah Omar, for example, attended the Deobandi Darul Uloom Haqqania madrassa in Peshawar.

The Kabul Centre for Strategic Studies has reported that so many of the Taliban leaders were educated at the school that its head cleric, Maulana Sami ul-Haq is regarded the father of the Taliban. The Deobandi Tradition is highly critical of Islam as practised in modern societies, feeling that the established religious order had made too many compromises with its foreign environment.

The mission of the Deoband is to cleanse Islam of all Western influences, and to propagate their teachings with missionary zeal. Increasingly, the Deobandi movement has been funded by the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, leading to the former being co-opted by the latter.

Without a clear indication – such as ‘Darul Uloom’ appearing in the name of the institution – it cannot be said with certainty how many of the total of 10 listed Pakistani institutions in the regulations  are categorically Deobandi.

Available facts suggest, however, that more than just the two Darul Ulooms listed in the Regulations are Deobandi. It is the Deobandi that has the largest number of religious seminaries in Pakistan – of 20,000 registered seminaries in Pakistan, 12,000 are run by Deobandi scholars; and 6,000 by the Barlevi, with whom the Deobandi have many disputes.

Among the 10 Pakistani institutions approved by the regulations is also Jamia Salafia, a seminary whose alumni include several leaders in Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organisation behind the Mumbai terror attacks in which a Maldivian is alleged to have participated. It is also the leading supplier of Salafi neo-conservatism in the Maldives.

Even when the approved list of institutions in the regulations’ list goes beyond South Asian borders, it gravitates towards the Deobandi movement. The list includes, for example, the Dhaarul Uloom Zakariya in South Africa. The only institute in Britain the regulations approve of is the Islamic Da’wa Academy, a place which produces the Muslim equivalent of a missionary. Why is there such an acute need to proselytise in a country where the population already believes in Islam except to propagate a particular view?

The Deoband HQ has recently sought to distance itself from violent extremism. For the powers that be in the War on Terror, what matters is the graduation from extremism to violence. But, for societies such as the Maldives, and for the people who have to live under its precincts, what matters more is the oppression that extremism imposes on daily life. This is the reality that a Maldivian people living under the Religious Unity Regulations will have to face.

The application of the Deobandi school of thought on Maldivian women is a frightening prospect that is not too far in the distant future. The Taliban’s stance on women is a clear indication of the scale of the potential problem. An example of the Deobandi’s take on women is the 24 April 2010 Fatwa by the seminary in Deoband that declared it ‘haraam’ and illegal according to Sharia for a family to accept a women’s earnings.

‘It is unlawful for Muslim women to do job in government or private institutions where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without veil.’

Embarrassed by the angry reaction in the Indian media and among women’s groups, the Deoband madrassa denied it banned women from the work place and only insisted that working women be ‘properly covered’. As analysts have pointed out, however, what the Fatwa suggests is that women can only work in such places where they can fully veil themselves and where they cannot ‘frankly’ talk to men, whatever that means. The Fatwa effectively banned Muslim women from the workplace in India.

The Religious Unity Regulations stipulate that no one should propagate their particular ideology of Islam as the ‘right Islam’. This stipulation looks good in writing, and is perhaps what has allowed the government to spin the document as ‘a crack-down on extremism’.

It is true the regulations prohibit the promotion of a particular ideology of Islam as the ‘true Islam’. But by regulating what truth about Islam would be considered as legitimate in the first place, a pre-selected knowledge of the ‘right Islam’ – what looks like Deobandi Islam – is being imposed on the people that pre-empts the regulations themselves. It is clear from the staggering changes that have occurred in Maldivian faith in the last decade that the Deobandi movement has been a resounding success in the country. Now it has the chance to flourish further, with no conflicting opinions to be allowed in.

Clamping down on other forms of Islam is, in fact, a defining characteristic of the Deobandi Tradition. Although from a global perspective the Deobandis are only one of many religious expressions of Islam, from the Deobandi point of view, theirs is the only true Islam.

The Deobandi regard all other forms of Islam as heretical, leading to continued tension and long-term violence between the Deobandi and other Muslims. In Pakistan, where the Deobandi is known to have played a crucial role in establishing an Islamic state, the Deobandi Taliban have carried out many acts of violence against followers of the Berlevi tradition, which many Pakistan’s Muslims follow.

The Religious Unity Regulations have already created tensions among those who have claimed the mantle of ‘religious scholar’ in the Maldives. The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives is arguing against the Regulations on the basis that the requirement of a first degree as a prerequisite for the Preachers License is unconstitutional. It is also fighting for the religious right to describe Jews as ‘evil people and liars’.

The Adhaalath Party, meanwhile, has objected to the regulations because the President and his advisors apparently watered down the purity of their contributions to the draft Regulations by contaminating it with “provisions from English law…not suited to a 100 percent Muslim country”, echoing the founding principles of the Deobandi Tradition.

‘Compared to the first draft’, President’s advisor on the Regulations, Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, said, “the regulations do not impinge on freedom of expression”.

What matters is not whether, comparatively speaking, the first draft is a veritable Magna Carta. What matters is the final draft that has been gazetted. And it severely restricts the freedom of the Maldivian people in the name of the ‘right Islam’ – Deobandi Islam. To spin the document as something that “will allow liberal-minded thinkers to convince people of the middle ground” is deliberately misleading if not an outright lie. This document does the exact opposite.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


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.


Osama bin Laden killed in Pakistan by US forces, says Obama

US President Barack Obama has declared the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US forces.

In a live broadcast to the US on Sunday night, Obama claimed that an intelligence lead in August 2010 had culminated in the tracking of bin Laden to Abbottabad, a town north of Islamabad in Pakistan far from the tribal belt where the US has been searching for the fugitive.

“It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorised an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” Obama said.

“A small team of Americans” engaged bin Laden in a firefight, killing him. No US or civilian casualties were reported, and bin Laden’s body was recovered.

A US official told Associated Press that “We are assuring [his body] is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.”

Counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan “help lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,” Obama said.

“We must also reaffirm that the United States is not – and never will be – at war with Islam,” he added. “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”


Crowds immediately gathered outside the gates of the White House singing the country’s national anthem, while news networks reported a “party atmosphere” spreading throughout the country.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that confirmation of bin Laden’s death should  “bring great relief to people across the world”.

“Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen – for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives, many of them British,” the PM said.

A Western diplomat based in Islamabad told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that bin Laden’s death was a “game changer” for US foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“I’m overjoyed, but what this exactly means is really not clear,” the diplomat said.

A number of analysts speculated that while bin Laden’s death was a significant symbolic victory for the US, it was unlikely to hamper al Qaeda’s operations as bin Laden was no longer involved in the day-to-day functioning of the terrorist organisation.

The US State Department meanwhile issued a travel alert to all US citizens warning of an outbreak of anti-American violence in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

“Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, US citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations,” the State Department said.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Robert Blake, is currently in Male’ for meetings with political leaders and civil society.


Leaked cable from 2008 reveals US concerns about Maldivian national’s “unspecified links to al-Qaida”

United States diplomats expressed concern back in October 2008 regarding the activities of “al-Qaida associates” in the Maldives.

In a leaked cable prepared by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the US reveals that the Maldives Police Service investigated and monitored the activities of Yoosuf Izadhy, Easa Ali, and Hasnain Abdullah Hameedh, the former of whom was believed to be in contact with a militant group in Waziristan with “unspecified links to al-Qaida.”

“Izadhy was clandestinely working to recruit others into his organisation, specifically seeking individuals who had undergone basic terrorism training in Pakistan,” the cable read, adding that Izadhy “planned to create a terrorist group in the Maldives with the assistance of the Waziristan-based group.”

In addition, the cable said that “Hameedh was in close contact with a number of individuals who had undergone training in Pakistan, including individuals who were members of Jamaat-ul Muslimeen and completed basic and advanced training by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) in Pakistan. They followed the ideology of Abu Easa.”

Izadhy was among the nine Maldivians that Defence Minister Ameen Faisal said in April 2009 were “arrested with weapons” near the Pakistani-Afghan border. Two men were arrested in Waziristan, the religiously conservative mountain region of northwest Pakistan.

In addition to Ali Shafeeq, 25, of R.Kandholhudhoo, who was arrested for alleged involvement in the Sultans Park bombing in 2007 but later cleared of all charges and released, those arrested included: Yoosuf Izadhy, 38, of M.Nicosia in Male’, Ahmed Ashraf, 31, of Hdh.Vaikaradhoo; Abdullah Sameer, 38, of Sh. Lhaimagu; Ali Faiz, 31, of Hdh.Vaikaradhoo; Moosa Yoosuf, 30, of L.Kalhaidhoo; Yoosuf Mohammed, 52, L.Kalhaidhoo; Mohammad Zuhree, 28, of Gdh. Dhaandhoo; and Arif Ahmed, whose details were unavailable.

The Defence Minister told press at the time that all nine of these individuals had travelled on three separate flights to Pakistan between February 27 and the March 1, 2009.

In Feburary 2010, the Maldivian government repatriated the nine Maldivian nationals held in Pakistan, who had been arrested by Pakistani authorities following a military raid on several armed groups.

No charges were filed against the men, and they were released to their families. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Shaheed emphasised at the time that the nine men had not been formally charged and stressed that “the types of activities they are alleged to have been involved in, while illegal, do not necessarily fall under terrorism.”

The role of the Foreign Ministry, Dr Shaheed said, was to “repatriate Maldivians when it is in the national interest to do so” and “not to mix that up with judgements of character”.

President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News there had originally been 12 Maldivians arrested in Pakistan “but three died while they were being transported between facilities”

Reports the group were carrying weapons were “conflicting”, he said.

Sleeper cell

Concerns about plans by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to establish a ‘sleeper cell’ in the Maldives periodically surface in the Indian media – the group is believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008. The attacks saw gunmen enter the city by sea before going on to kill at least 173 people and leave 308 wounded. President Mohamed Nasheed has since downplayed the claims.

While the cable describes the “operational aspirations” of Izadhy, Easa , and Hameedh as “unclear”, “past reporting suggests Maldivian extremists have demonstrated interest in actively participating in global jihadi activities by attempting to arrange travel and terrorist training in Pakistan.”

“While many Maldivian participants of extremist online forums aimed to ultimately fight Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, mid-October 2007 debrief information following the September 29 bombing in Male’ that targeted tourists indicates at least two of the operatives participated in the attack in exchange for travel from the islands after the operation and arranged study at a madrassa in Pakistan.”

The Maldivian government has repeatedly expressed concern about Maldivian nationals travelling to Pakistan for free ‘Islamic education’ at unmonitored madrassas.

The leaked cable further mentions “recruitment activity” in May 2008 for a Kashmiri offshoot of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba by a Maldivian national Ahmed Zaki.  The document refers to reports from 2006 detailing linkages between Maldivians belonging to a UK-based extremist group called Jama-ah-tul-Muslimeen (JTM) and an “anti-American Islamic extremist online forum called Tibyan Publications.”

“JTM is an extremist group based in the UK set up to follow an extremist ideology known as Takfiir that actively encourages violent jihad and supports criminality against apostate states,” the cable notes.

The US has stated that it will not comment on the specific contents of the 250,000 diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.


DRP to hold gathering to commemorate ‘Victory Day’

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has announced it will hold a special gathering tonight to celebrate ‘Victory Day’, a public holiday held in remembrance of those who died in the November 3 coup attempt in 1988.

The Maldives was attacked by 80 armed mercenaries linked to the Sri Lankan terrorist group, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom requested Indian intervention and 1600 paratroopers were deployed to the Maldives. 19 people were killed in the fighting, including several hostages taken by the mercenaries.

The escaping mercenary vessel was intercepted by the Indian Navy frigates INS Godavari and INS Betwa.

“We will gather and march in the main roads of Male’, said DRP MP Ahmed Nihan. “People who are attending are requested to wear black clothing because it was a dark and saddening day for the Maldives.”

Nihan criticised the government for not commemorating the day “as they should be”, accused several senior members of the government of collaborating with the mercenaries, and further claimed that the Maldives secured its own independence before the intervention of the Indian government.

“Anyone is welcome to join our gathering tonight, it is remembrance of the martyrs who passed away in the attack, and the black clothing resembles the sadness and darkness Maldivians were in back then,’’ he added.

Nihan said the gathering would begin at 8:45pm at the Artificial Beach and continue for an hour.