An Indian university has been hired by the defence ministry to carry out terrorism awareness and training programmes in the Maldives.
The agreement with the Punjab- based Lovely International Trust aims to “build individuals who can counter terrorism” and improve skills of defence ministry officials, Defence Minister Adam Shareef said Wednesday.
A ministry spokesman declined to reveal further details.
Shareef reportedly said officials from the Lovely Group would visit islands to carry out its programme, while its associate director Aman Mittal promised scholarships for Maldivians.
The Lovely Professional University claims it is India’s largest private university, catering to 25,000 students. The group also deals in automobiles. The Mittal family who founded the group made its fortune selling Indian sweets.
The programme will help Maldives become a leader in the global fight against terrorism, Shareef said.
The police meanwhile announced Saturday that its academy is set to introduce new programmes to train officers on investigating terror acts and preventing the spread of extremist ideologies.
A component on countering terrorism will be included in the basic training programme for new recruits.
The parliament dominated by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has approved an anti-terrorism policy and a law criminalising participation in foreign civil wars.
The measures came in response to accusations that the government was ignoring the threat posed by Jihadi recruitment in the Maldives. President Abdulla Yameen also established a National Counter Terrorism Centre in February.
The government has pledged to formulate a national counter-terrorism strategy, develop a legislative framework on national security, and conduct programmes to safeguard the tourism industry and critical infrastructure.
The opposition claims as many as 250 Maldivians are fighting in Syria and Iraq, but Shareef insists the figure was 49. Local daily Mihaaru reported in June that police records show some 180 people are engaged in Jihad.
At least a dozen Maldivians are thought to have been killed in battle.
Speaking to reporters on September 22, Shareef dismissed claims of terrorism financing in the Maldives and said the NCTC had not found evidence of organised recruitment rings in the Maldives.
In June, the minister has said the government was monitoring some individuals suspected of recruitment.
The minister also said the NCTC has prevented three people from going on Jihad and extradited one individual suspected of planning a terrorist attack abroad.
Colonel Abdul Raheem, a director at the NCTC, said a study by the centre shows most Maldivian jihadists have criminal records.
“What we noticed is that since Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim country, jihad becomes a common topic to radicalize people who’ve committed a crime.” Raheem said. “They are being told that they don’t have any other way to be saved. That jihad is the only way. They’re told there’s no way to be saved from their crimes except going to join a war in a foreign country”
“Jihad is a sacred act in Islam, but these people are not given the right information about jihad, they are told that joining a war in a foreign country is jihad.”
Additional reporting by Hassan Moosa