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Authorities arrest 2 suspected extremists in Maduvvari operation

Shahudha Mohamed
18 December 2019, MVT 20:22
Police taking a suspect under custody during the special joint operation conducted with MNDF in Maduvvari, Raa Atoll. PHOTO: POLICE
Shahudha Mohamed
18 December 2019, MVT 20:22

Maldives Police Service on Wednesday arrested two individuals in Maduvvari, Raa Atoll, for spreading extremist ideologies within the community.

Police Spokesperson confirmed that two males, aged 30 and 34, were under arrest, but did not reveal further details.

The arrest was made during a joint operation conducted with Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to inspect residences in Maduvvari over the spread of religious extremism.

State Minister of Home Affairs Ali Nazeer told local media Mihaaru that the houses were being inspected with court orders and authorities will reveal additional information about the operation later.

According to reports by local media Mihaaru, Police confiscated three swords during the operation. Authorities have yet to confirm this rumour.

Police revealed a statement about the operation declaring that it was being carried out to apprehend individuals who were committing crimes in the name of extremism and to protect the rights of children who had fallen victim to their beliefs.

Ismail Hammaadh and Ismail Asif, the two suspects arrested over a brawl on a fishing vessel, belong to Maduvvari. Asif reportedly attacked Hammaadh over differences in opinion regarding a plan carried out in line with their extremist ideologies. The two are currently under state custody.

Hammaadh was arrested over allegedly raping and impregnating a minor, who he was "married" to.

A group of individuals who are alleged to follow the ideologies of the international terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) and recruit fighters for the Syrian conflict reportedly live in Maduvvari.

Maduvvari Council have filed various complaints to the authorities on the rise in extremism within the island community.

According to reports, a group of individuals have been praying in a separate congregation for years now. Moreover, some of them teach their extremist religious views to outsiders visiting the island, which has resulted in some of them leaving the country to fight in the Syrian conflict. Others were apprehended in the airport while attempting to travel to the warzone.

Police stated that they received information of extremists violating the rights of women and children, isolating them from society and locking them up in their houses.

In 2010, a team from Ministry of Islamic Affairs visited the island to advise those spreading extremist beliefs but returned without much progress due to the lack of cooperation.

Some islanders told local media Mihaaru that there are approximately 26 individuals that have made their own separate community, exercising extremism. People from other islands visit to learn their teachings as well.

In 2014, Police received a missing person's report from Maduvvari. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the individual who was reported missing had left the country to fight in the Syrian conflict, along with other insurgents from Meedhoo in the same atoll.

Later, another group of extremists attempting to travel to Syria were apprehended at the airport.

The extremists in Maduvvari advocate for cutting familial ties, asserting rights to claim others' property and promoting violence. They also believe that the island's mosque is built on a graveyard, therefore, claiming that praying at the mosque is irreligious.

National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) revealed that the authorities were aware of the islands in which extremism is spreading at a large scale.

According to authorities, extremist beliefs have spread to dangerous levels all across the archipelago within the last 12 years. Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed recently revealed that there are approximately 1400 individuals who would not hesitate to kill for their cause.

Some of these extremists planned to bomb Maldives in 2017, with assistance from the Islamic State but authorities neutralised the threat.

As the administration takes steps to halt the spread of extremism in the country, Islamic Ministry suspended the permits for three scholars to give public sermons, over suspicions that they were encouraging such ideologies.

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