A religious extremist group with child brides was uncovered last Thursday after a dispute within the group led to a near-fatal stabbing.
Ismail Hammad, from Madduvari island in Raa atoll, was stabbed on a fishing boat and narrowly escaped by jumping and swimming to a nearby island. He was assaulted for refusing to pledge allegiance to the leader of the group and “sentenced to death” by his colleagues, according to media reports.
The crew of the fishing boat have since been arrested but police declined to provide further information. A magistrate court on Rasdhoo island in Alif Alif atoll has remanded a 30-year-old suspect into custody for 10 days, police said.
The 26-year-old stabbing victim was reportedly married to a 13-year-old girl who was now pregnant and another man in the same group married a nine-year-old girl. Both marriages were illegal and administered out of court.
Upon learning of a minor who was pregnant, complaints about “all adults involved in the case” have been lodged with the authorities, the gender and family ministry said on Saturday. The child rape case is under investigation, police confirmed.
The age of consent for marriage was raised to 18 years in a new child protection law ratified last week. In accordance with Islamic sharia, the family law previously allowed children under the age of 18 who have reached puberty to get married with a special permission from the family court and the Supreme Court.
Hammad swam to Alif Alif atoll Maalhos after midnight on Thursday and collapsed near a house close to the shore, a witness told Mihaaru. He was spotted by two passing men who heard his cry for help. “He needed 12 stitches and had deep wounds in his face, arms and head. He was not stable that is why he was transported by sea ambulance to Malé,” the witness said.
The other men later came to Maalhos to search for Hammad but failed to find him.
After treatment at the Maalhos health centre, Hammad was brought to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé with the help of the military.
According to Madduvari islanders, the radical group did not pray in congregation and had also warned people against entertainment in Eid celebrations. “They pray in the mosque but only after the congregation is done with their prayer. A lot people are with them and many come to the island to see them,” a man from Madduvari told the newspaper.
Photo of Hammad from MNDF