Maldivians fighting wars abroad a concern, says Police Commissioner

Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed says that it is a cause of concern that Maldivians nationals are leaving the country to fight in wars abroad.

It is necessary for all police officers to work together in order stop Maldivians joining wars abroad, he told fellow officers at a police function held yesterday (February 2).

If police receive any information regarding such a case, he added, it should be investigated by the intelligence department and adequate preventative measures should be taken immediately.

The commissioner’s remarks closely follow reports that a former mosque employee at Malé’s Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and his wife had travelled to Syria for Jihad, entering ISIS-held territory after travelling to Turkey via Dubai.

The exact number of Maldivians abroad for Jihad remains unclear, with Haveeru reporting a group of six having departed last week, as well as a dozen more said to have gone to Syria at the start of January.

Waheed has previously estimated that around 50 Maldivians are working with foreign rebel groups, dwarfing figures suggested by Home Minister Umar Naseer in December.

Commissioner Waheed has said that police are working with the Islamic ministry and relevant government departments to prevent radicalisation, though he said the variety of people travelling for jihad made it hard to target the most vulnerable groups.

Despite assurances that the activities of radicals are being monitored, the group said to have left in early January included a number of individuals known to police.

The group included Azlif Rauf – a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, and an individual arrested over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan. A private investigation into Rilwan’s case implicated radicalised gangs in what is believed to have been the 29-years-old’s abduction.

Last month, four would-be jihadis were apprehended in Malaysia, with media reporting that they were brought back to the Maldives and released after the authorities seized their passports. A similar group were returned from Sri Lanka in November.

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

Defending the government’s stance on extremism and ISIS, Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told the Majlis late last year that “Maldives will not allow Maldivians to go and fight in foreign wars”.

“We do not support their [ISIS] extremist policies. We have repeatedly appealed to our beloved youth to refrain from falling prey to these ideologies,” he said.

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