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Maldives police's contradictory jihadist number of 180 suggests govt cover up

Mohamed Visham
30 June 2016, MVT 13:12
Some Maldivian Jihadists pictured in Syria.
Mohamed Visham
30 June 2016, MVT 13:12

Mihaaru has found a massive contradiction in the government's official number of Maldivians joining foreign conflicts with police placing its official figure at 180, significantly more than what the defence minister had admitted a fortnight ago.

Defence minister Adam Shareef had insisted that the number of Maldivian jihadists fighting abroad was at 49 and were mostly made up of ex-convicts and school dropouts.

When asked repeatedly on how the government arrived at the number, Shareef had stressed that the information was based on intelligence gathered jointly by the police and the military.

But he did admit that the figure does not include children taken along by parents and Maldivian jihadists in other countries.

“That is the official government figure to date. We review the figure once a month,” minister had explained.

However, Mihaaru has been able to confirm that according to the police figure, the official number is between 150-180.

Sources say the figure includes suspects in ongoing police investigations and others flagged for suspicious activity.

Various relevant international bodies and the opposition has insisted that the number of locals joining the Syrian conflict is at 250 which would make Maldives with the highest number of fighters in Syria per capita.

Defence minister Adam Shareef (L) pictured during the press conference held by the counter terrorism centre on Wednesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI

The government has continuously rejected the number and insisted that opposition inflates the figure for political gain.

The contradiction in the figures came after A local who had been fighting abroad for a terrorist group has been arrested upon his return to the Maldives.

It is believed that the man had left with his family to join a foreign conflict in 2007. Mihaaru has been unable to confirm which country he had fought in. However, most of the locals at the time had gone to Pakistan.

Most of the suspects connected to the 2007 Sultan Park bombing had fled to Pakistan shortly after the attack.

Sources say Police had arrested the man who had been a high ranking officer in the terrorist group after he returned to Maldives a week ago.

Mihaaru has been unable to confirm the identity man in custody who has been remanded for 15 days.

Sources also said the man is being questioned by FBI agents.

The arrest comes days after the defence minister said the government has been able to identify some of the jihadi recruiters operating in the Maldives.

Defence minister Shareef said last week that a lack of sufficient evidence has prevented authorities from taking action.

“We are trying to gather enough evidence to convict them in a court of law. So we are closely monitoring them now,” he said.

Government has recently looked to take measures to curb the rising extremist ideologies in the island nation.

The government last week publicized the national policy to curb rising violent extremism ideology in the archipelago.

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