President Abdulla Yameen established Thursday a new body on counter terrorism amidst continuing concern over the steady outflow of Maldivians joining the Syrian civil war.
The president’s office, which previously sought to downplay risks posed by religious extremism, said that the National Counter Terrorism Center was established “in order to combat the growing threat of radicalization and extremism in the Maldives.”
The NCTC will act as the national focal point on all counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism efforts and formulate counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism guidelines and procedures based on the analysis of international benchmarks and best practices, the president’s office said in a statement.
“NCTC is set to gather and analyse intelligence, from all state agencies, on terrorism activities and inform relevant authorities.
“It will also seek to identify radicalized elements within communities and run targeted rehabilitation programs to those in need.”
Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s spokesman, was not responding to questions for additional details at the time of going to press.
The opposition claims as many as 200 Maldivians have left the country on Jihad, which would make the Maldives the highest per capita supplier of jihadists. The government disputes the figure, with various ministers offering estimates ranging from 35 to 100.
Yameen has blamed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s claims of growing extremism in the Maldives for JP Morgan Chase’s dropping of Maldives from its client list.
Nasheed, who is in the UK on government-authorised medical-leave, responded saying banks are pulling out of the Maldives because local banks are being used for money-laundering.
The central bank has denied the claim.
The NCTC was also unveiled days after the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives submitted an amendment to the new terrorism law, seeking to keep secret the list of organizations the government considers terror groups.
The new law sets a jail term of up to 20 years for departing the Maldives to join a foreign war.
The US state department, in a 2013 report on terrorism, said the Maldivian government believes funds are raised in the country to support terrorism abroad, a claim the MMA promptly denied.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party has also claimed it has evidence of government involvement in terrorism financing.
Citing interviews with government officials and analyses of documents on detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s personal laptops, the party said that an individual paid to commit political crimes by the government was also involved in recruiting fighters.
The unnamed individual has coordinated and funded more than 100 Maldivians to travel to Syria, the party said. The evidence has been shared with the police now.
When reports of Maldivians dying in battle in Syria first surfaced in 2014, Yameen denied having any knowledge of the matter. Subsequently, approximately 200 people carrying the ISIS flagsmarched in Malé calling for the implementation of the Islamic Shari’ah.