Defence minister Adam Shareef on Monday declared that the number of Maldivians traveling to fight in the Syrian civil war has again increased.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Coast Guard building in capital Male, Shareef revealed that the number of Maldivians involved in the Syrian civil war has risen to 61 from 49. This is an increase of 12, since the government announced the latest number in 2016.
The authorities have detained 68 people who attempted to go to war during this period. The minister stated that they were 59 adults and 9 minors. Shareef clarified that the minors detained were with families travelling to join conflict-ridden areas.
He also noted that, of those attempting to go to war, 12 were detained in Turkey, 13 in various other countries and 21 were taken into custody in Male. Based on intelligence information, the people travelling to join the Syrian war were tracked and detained by the integrated effort of Customs, Immigration, Police and the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Furthermore, the minister said that the number of people involved in foreign wars were ascertained based on credible intelligence information received by the police, army and the NCTC.
Several Maldivians have previously been detained while attempting to go and fight in foreign conflicts. According to Minister Shareef, seven such cases have been investigated and concluded while additional cases are under investigation.
“As we have stressed before, the number of people engaging in such conflicts has risen because of the lack of correct religious information or,due to lack of clarification in the matter. We are working to provide a solution,” he stated.
Some areas in the Syrian civil war have announced ceasefire in recent days, and foreign fighters are returning to their home countries. The minister revealed that three Maldivians returning after fighting in the Syrian conflict have been detained. He added that the option of returning was available for Maldivians should they wish to: it would be facilitated. However, the minister also stated that going to fight in foreign wars is forbidden under the Maldivian law, and therefore steps will be taken against them as per laws of the country.
Shareef reiterated the government’s stance and reassured that there was no threat of terrorism in the Maldives and added that the nation is as peaceful as it was ten years back.
The minister also pointed out that since the Sultan Park bombing in 2007, there have been no further incidents and that any subsequent terrorist attacks had been of political nature.