Two Maldivian men charged with terrorism were planning to carry out a suicide attack in the capital Malé, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Ishag Ali, from Madduvari island in Raa atoll, and Hussein Afeef, from Fuvahmulah City in the southern Maldives, were named by prosecutors and are alleged by police to have connections to the Islamic State group operating out of Syria and Iraq.
The two men are charged with planning and attempting to take part in a suicide attack.
The prosecutor general’s spokesman Adam Thaufeeq told the Maldives Independent that one was charged for planning a suicide attack while the other was charged for attempting to carry it out.
“The police investigation found out that these men are affiliated with IS and they were planning to carry out an attack in Malé,” he said.
He was unable to provide further information about the attack, including the exact location and nature of the planned attack.
A source familiar with the case told the Maldives Independent that the charges stemmed from arrests made in September.
Authorities made several terror-related arrests that month following the United Kingdom updating its Maldives travel advice to say terrorists were “very likely” to carry out an attack in the country.
The opposition claims the Maldives is the highest per capita supplier of jihadis, with as many as 250 Maldivians fighting in Syria and Iraq. But the government says the opposition has been inflating the figure to lobby international support for its cause, offering various lower estimates and decrying damage to the economy due to “exaggerated” claims.
A report published Wednesday said the Maldives was “grappling” with the challenge of returning foreign fighters who may radicalise others or attempt attacks.
The Global Terrorism Index 2017, from the Institute for Economics and Peace, said the country had seen a seen a startling number of its citizens travel overseas relative to its population.
“The country has little experience with counterterrorism and has hundreds of soft targets such as hotels perched on atolls in the Indian Ocean,” it said.
An anti-terror law was passed after the current administration was accused of ignoring the threat posed by jihadi recruitment since the first reports of Maldivians joining terror groups emerged in 2014.
At least six Maldivians fighting with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in Syria are believed to have been killed in battle. In late April, the group’s media wing reported that a Maldivian man with the alias Abu Yousif Al-Maldivi was killed during clashes with the Syrian Arab Army inside the town of Taybat Al-Imam in northern Hama.