Maldives Police Service (MPS) has confirmed eight arrests in relation to an attempted terror attack on the island of Th. Thimarafushi in November last year.
A press statement by MPS details that a group of religious extremists from Th. Thimarafushi had led support for terrorist groups and justified acts of terrorism, and had proceeded to collaborate with known terrorist organization Islamic State to plot, aid and execute a terrorist attack on Maldivian soil.
Further, MPS says they received information that this terrorist group had been operating a vessel, "Nasaah 3" on board which they were constructing an improvised explosive device (IED), and had used the vessel to travel to uninhabited islands where they hosted training sessions for various terror-related operations. MPS also notes that the terrorist group had perpetrated extremist beliefs on Th. Thimarafushi, and had held online "sermons", in addition to holding classes in some homes of Thimarafushi, intended to radicalize people, with a special focus on indoctrinating young people and other vulnerable groups on the island. The group is also believed to have promoted terrorist ideologies by distributing propaganda-based content on the island, including videos and literature which glorified violence and terrorist acts.
MPS' statement further highlights that the group had first encouraged religious devotion in people, which had later turned into extremist and separatist ideology as the group began issuing public advice to not join prayer congregations at mosques on the island. The group is alleged to be providing financial support for extremist causes. They were also successful in radicalizing many young children on the island, who eventually turned away from their parents as a result of the group's indoctrination efforts.
MPS revealed that they had conducted a special land-and-sea operation in Male' City and Thimarafushi on 11 November 2020, and that six suspects had been arrested in connection to the case. Two others were also arrested from Thimarafushi on 27 November, believed to be associates of the terrorist group operating on the island.
A man arrested in this case has been accused of communicating with Islamic State, with MPS confirming that the international terror organization had sent messages to "Jazeera Youths" to support their efforts to execute terror operations and spread violent extremism in the Maldives. MPS also confirmed that associates of this group had attempted to use an IED to blow up Thaa Atoll Education Center while students were sitting their O'Level exams in 2020, and that they had done so after robbing the school's chemical storage in order to prepare the explosives.
The details of those who were arrested from this operation are as follows;
1. Abdulla Shareef, Th. Thimarafushi, Felividhuvaruge; Shareef is believed to be the "Amir" appointed lead the terrorist faction in Maldives by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province, a branch of the militant Islamic group ISIL currently active in South and Central Asia
2. Ahsan Mohamed, Th. Thimarafushi, Asrafvilla
3. Ali Muneex, Th, Thimarafush, Kenereege
4. Mohamed Aseer, Th. Thimarafushi, Asurumaage
5. Ali Aruham Mohamed, R. Kan'dholhudhoo, Fehivilaa
6. Shamah Shareef, N. Kudafari, Saima
7. Ibrahim Looth, N. Kudafari, Rose Mead
8. Abdulla Imaad, R. Maduvvari, Beach House
MPS confirmed that those arrested had criminal records and were arrested prior to this for crimes such as armed assault, threat to murder, the sale and use of illicit substances and destruction of private property.
MPS had forwarded charges against these men to the Prosecutor General's Office on 25 January 2021, and continue to investigate other suspects in relation to this terror network.