A 26-year-old Maldivian man has died fighting with the Jabhat Al-Nusra Front in Syria.
Mohamed Irfan, who took on the name Abu Yushau Maldifi, traveled to Syria nearly six months ago, sources have said. The exact date of his death is unknown, but it was publicized on Facebook today by Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) group, run by Maldivian militants in Syria.
His last post on Facebook was a quote on September 16: “Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogue.”
Irfan was “known to be cheerful, high spirited, sincere, kind, helpful and caring to his friends and strangers,” said BASM in an obituary.
The young man had strived to attain “martyrdom,” the post said. He was killed in the Syrian province of Idlib in a heavy exchange of fire. Irfan was running to help an injured man when he was hit by sniper bullet, BASM said.
Hundreds of Maldivians are thought to be fighting in the Middle East. Most appear to be fighting with either the Nusra Front or the Islamic State.
At least six Maldivians have died fighting with the Nusra front, according to BASM. Abu Turab and Hassan Shifaz (Abu Nuh) died in May last year, and Yameen Naeem (Abu Dujana) and Abu Ibrahim in September last year, and Abu Fulan in November last year.
Deaths of militants with other groups have also been reported to local media by families. In March this year, the families of Abdulla Mohamed Didi and Ahmed Munsiu reported their deaths to local daily Haveeru.
In May, a Facebook page said Azlif Rauf, a man implicated in the brutal murder of an MP in 2012, had died in battle.
The BASM group runs a blog promoting jihad and has published several obituaries of its members killed in battle.
Facebook and Twitter appears to periodically shut-down BASM’s accounts.
Many Maldivians in Syria maintain regular contact with their families through social media. The communities in Syria includes Maldivians from all walks of life, women, children, immigration officers, as well as members of Malé’s criminal gangs.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) says President Abdulla Yameen’s administration is doing very little to stop the spread of extremist ideologies.
The government has submitted an anti-terror bill to the parliament with jail terms of up to 20 years for those attempting to leave the Maldives for Jihad.
Critics have said harsh penalties are not enough, and have called on the government to undertake awareness programs to address radicalization, and establish early intervention and rehabilitation programs.
When reports of Maldivians fighting and dying in the Middle East surfaced in May last year, Yameen said he was unaware of the issue, while the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) officials accused the MDP of spreading false information to bring the Maldives into disrepute.
In September, some 200 people staged a march in Malé carrying the black flags of the IS and calling for the enforcement of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.
Home Minister Umar Naseer first acknowledged the problem in December, saying only seven Maldivians were fighting abroad. In January, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed put the number at 50.
The Islamic Ministry and scholars at the Fiqh Academy have urged young Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars.