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Maldives Internal Security Challenges and Responses

Countering Violent Extremism is the principal challenge for the Maldives. This has assumed significance with the influence of radical Islam spreading over the years and more recently since 2014 when Maldives was reported to have the highest number of per capita citizens joining the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Maldives Police Service (MPS) reported that 173 Maldivians joined the ISIS in Syria since 2014, including families and children. MPS claims that there are approximately 1,400 "religious extremists" located in the Maldives. The government claims that 188 cases related to "religious extremism" were reported between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2019. Of these, 14 were brought forward for prosecution.

The omniscience of the threat was evident as a video allegedly of Maldivian fighters who died in Syria was circulated online in August by Bilad al-Sham Media with the caption "Dhivehi Shaheedhun" (which translates to Maldivian martyrs). The video shows 18 alleged Maldivian fighters that died in the Syrian civil war from 2014 to 2019 as per Rajje MV.

Police have rearrested Mohamed Ameen, Kariyya Villa, Maadhandu, Fuvahmulah City – the man they believe to be the leader of the Maldivian faction of the international terror network Islamic State in October and the Courts have granted his judicial custody

More significantly, a homemade remote-controlled IED was strapped to a motorcycle parked nearby former President and Speaker of the National Assembly (Majlis) Mohmmad Nasheed's residence and was detonated at 08:27 pm on May 6, just as he exited his residence and went to get in his car. Nasheed was thrown to the ground and sustained multiple shrapnel wounds, while three members of his security detail and two bystanders sustained minor wounds as per details provided by Sun Online.

Police arrested 10 suspects in connection to the case, and requested the Prosecutor General's Office for charges against 5 suspects. The terror cell involved in the attack made prior attempts to assassinate Nasheed by strapping the same motorcycle used in the May 6 attack with an IED and parking it outside the residence of his spouse, Laila Ahmed as per Sun Online.

Suspects involved in the attack believe Nasheed to be an apostate who openly mocks the religion of Islam and Prophet Mohamed, and that killing him to be justified. While they found evidence suggesting the suspects to be ISIS sympathizers, police said that there was no evidence directly linking them with the international terror organization as per Sun online.

Investigations have revealed that Adhuham Ahmed Rasheed, 26, of Hiyaa, V. Thinadhoo, Mujaz Ahmed, 21, Ma. Feyruge, K. Male' , Thahmeen Ahmed, 32, Folheyma, GA. Kondey and Ali Haisham, 27, Nooreege, N. Manadhoo were part of the plot. Haisham has signed a plea deal with the State with three charges; conspiracy to carry out an act of terrorism, aiding in transporting an explosive, and participating in carrying out an act of terrorism based on evidence he met with other suspects at a tea shop in Hulhumale' to "sanction" Nasheed's assassination, and was actively involved in strapping an IED to the motorcycle used in the attack. Police found both Thahmeen and Haisham's DNA on the IED as per Sun Online.

Investigations on state failure were undertaken through a parliamentary committee known as the 241 Committee. While 241 committee report shows institutional failure in the May 6 attack, it calls to improve the country's security services including by appointing a national security advisor to instruct the President on security-related issues. 38 out of the 45 recommendations in the inquiry report by the Parliament's committee on national security services are in the process of being implemented. This was revealed during a meeting between President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the National Security Council (NSC) as per Rajje MV.

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed a British Queen's Counsel (QC) member to represent him and monitor and work on the criminal investigation into the IED attack targeting him on May 6. Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Eva Abdulla has called on the committee on national security services, or the 241 committee, to assess whether Maldives faces any dangers due to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed (R), in an interview with India's Times Now on August 17, 2021, stated that, "Extremist communities throughout South Asia will welcome this change in Afghanistan. The Taliban taking over and therefore for the extremists to have a safe haven for them to plan, for them to train, and for them to attack communities within South Asia."

Counter-Terrorism Framework

The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) is the primary legislation for preventing and prosecuting terrorism. In October 2019, the government passed an amendment strengthening the ATA to authorize the MPS to make warrantless arrests for criminal acts defined as terrorism; criminalizes supporting "extremist" ideologies, departing for a war zone without government authorization, assisting individuals attempting to join militant groups, and withholding information regarding terrorism from authorities; and introduces longer prison sentences for terrorism as per US State Department Country Report on Terrorism 2019.

The amendment also requires the establishment of a rehabilitation and reintegration center for returning Maldivian FTFs, including a separate space for women and children deemed victims who did not commit acts of terrorism.

The law also creates a new CT risk assessment committee to assess whether repatriated individuals engaged in acts of terrorism or might be inclined to do so in the future. Parliament was given oversight authority through a monitoring mechanism in the amendment to prevent politically motivated prosecutions such as those that occurred in 2018 and previously.

The MPS is responsible for CT investigations. It transfers cases to the PGO for the duration of trials. Responsibility for CT operations, including investigations, primarily rests with MPS.

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), including the marines and coast guard, are responsible for CT response.

The Police plan a rehabilitation programme for Maldivians returning from war zones, with an amendment proposed to the Anti-Terrorism Act.

In October, Maldives National Defense Force’s (MNDF) Media Office Hana Mohamed announced details of a workshop focusing on developing human resources of government offices and civil organizations that undertake such tasks.

The workshop is titled ‘The International Program for Combating and Extremism and Terrorism’, which is conducted by the National Counter-Terrorism Center in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Naif Arab University for Security Sciences.


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