Anti-terror fight under fire after ambassador’s remarks

Anti-terror fight under fire after ambassador’s remarks
October 25 16:12 2017

A top Maldives diplomat has highlighted the country’s work in tackling extremism, despite criticism of the government’s failure to deliver key elements in its fight against terrorism.

The ambassador to India, Ahmed Mohamed, was speaking to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in a wide-ranging interview.

He described the country’s borders as “quite porous” and that it was “almost next to impossible” to keep checks or security posts at every point.

“We are very lucky that we have not had any terrorist attacks in the Maldives so far. But while for some aspects our geographical nature becomes a challenge, for the tourism sector it is a blessing. We have a one island-one resort concept, so we are able to provide, safety, security and privacy for all tourists,” Mohamed said.

While resorts have not experienced or reported terror attacks, the same cannot be said for the inhabited islands where the majority of Maldivians live.

In 2007 an extremist group detonated an explosive device near Sultan Park (now Rasrani Bageechaa) injuring 12 tourists from China, Britain and Japan. This was followed by a stand-off in Himandhoo island in Alif Alif atoll between an extremist group and security forces. The group attacked and injured around 30 police officers before 60 men were arrested and charged with terrorism.

The prosecutor general has also brought terror charges against people involved in the murder of human rights defender Yameen Rasheed in 2017 and the abduction of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan in 2014.

Shahindha Ismail, the executive director of Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) questioned the ambassador’s remarks.

“It is a blatant lie to say the Maldives has never had a terror attack. Maybe it is being framed this way because it has not happened in a tourist resort.”

Ambassador Mohamed also talked about the National Counter Terrorism Center established in 2016.

“Since the establishment of NCTC, we have held two international conferences in the Maldives, that also gave us the opportunity to learn from the experience of others,” he said.

However, experts working in the counter-terrorism sector have raised concerns about the centre’s inefficiency.

An official from a private security company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the NCTC was not functioning and had failed to respond to requests regarding safeguarding major tourist infrastructure against possible terrorist attacks.

“I don’t think it is functional. It is like a paper company. So far none of the calls we have made have been taken and we have heard nothing regarding requests for cooperation,” the official said.

Shahindha said the MDN was also unable to reach the NCTC hotline.

“I think the problem is about political sincerity. While the ambassador is saying that Maldives has an extremism problem, in an NCTC press conference the defence minister said that this was an isolated problem.”

According to US-based security and risk management consultancy, the Soufan Group, around 200 to 250 Maldivians are known to be fighting in the wars in Syria and Iraq, making the Maldives the highest foreign fighter contributor based on per capita.

However, the government has given lower figures.

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  1. A s
    October 26, 13:42 #1 A s

    Well. I guess no one wrote about the pirates who robbed the resort admin safe over night at knife point while the tourist were sleeping. I can see how happy the ambassador is! I have seen how the island administrators deal with pirates / the same gangsters running around attacking journalists, parliamentarians, locals etc. I have seen gangs trying to collect money from cafes is male and most of the time owners pay to keep the cafe out of trouble and pot smoking, drinking people. same as the cafe, this happens in resorts, picnic islands and local islands too. Looking at the history of gang violence, people involved in major terrorist attacks are also associated with these gangs. Maldives security has full control over Maldives. And that’s the reason why they sent off who ever they didn’t want to deal with to Syria and Pakistan where they have killed innocent people. Some officials and resort owners, to be very honest, is just scared.

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  2. Private Tourist
    October 26, 17:54 #2 Private Tourist

    Sometimes I wonder what Maldivian Government members and officials are smoking.

    “for the tourism sector it is a blessing. We have a one island-one resort concept, so we are able to provide, safety, security and privacy for all tourists,” Mohamed said.”

    Apart from privacy I have to take issue with him.

    As a frequent visitor to the Maldives I have yet to see any tangible security presence at ANY resort that could deal with a determined armed gang, even if they had just knives.

    All you see is an UNARMED guy with a walk-talkie who is probably (like most resort staff) poorly paid and unlikely to feel motivated enough to risk his life to defend rich tourists.

    A tourist ‘may’ stand a chance if the resort is within 15 minutes of Male where Police may be able to get there but any further and I think not.

    There was an incident in St Lucia a little while back where pirates landed in dinghies on a resort beach and robbed Cruise Ship guests at a top resort hotel and then departed. Nobody to stop them.

    A similar opportunistic robbery motivated incident in the Maldives ‘could’ be far less detrimental to the Maldives tourist industry than an all out terrorist/extremist attack like in say Tunisia.

    In the case of the former this would motivate the security forces to providing a clearly visible armed presence on every resort (at the resorts and Tourists expense of course. But doing things retrospectively is hardly adequate.

    The latter motivation is different. That would kill tourism dead in the water immediately.

    Ahmed Mohamed’s comments are a clear response to various FO’s issuing advisories about VERY LIKELY terrorist attacks in the Maldives. In one breath he says the borders are porous, which is true and as I have mentioned he is lying about sufficient security being available.

    There are many schools of thought regarding the imminency and likelihood of such attacks in the Maldives. One such idea is that Extremism needs funding and income. This is why the Middle east is a Hotbed: Oil revenue. Control the oil, build a Caliphate.

    You cannot build a Caliphate on fish. Which is all the Maldives would have if they lost tourism. Nobody wants the fish even now and even less so if being sold by extremists. So an extremist Terrorist Attack would be counterproductive and irrational.

    But, we all know extremism isn’t always rational.

    There is also one overriding factor however and that is, if a Foreign Office issues such a warning, you take notice. Invariably, Government Foreign Offices have their own information sources and networks which is independent of media and Local Government spin.

    What the Maldivian Government must do now is make immediate arrangements for DISCREET permanent armed police/military personnel to be stationed at ALL resorts.

    This has to be done in a careful and balanced manner. Sufficient to make Tourists feel secure but not too blatant as to cause alarm and unease.

    Any delay could be irriterievably costly.

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