Two minors have been taken into police custody over the fatal stabbing of two 14-year-old boys in Malé on Friday, police said today.
A fight between two rival gangs in the Maafannu ward, Vaikanmathi and Eagles, had prompted the killings, the police said.
The two 14-year-old boys who died of stab injuries Friday night were the youngest victims of gang-related killings in the Maldives. The police did not name the victims, but local media have identified them as Ahmed Irushan and Fathir Mohamed.
The first attack occurred at 5:30pm on Friday on the western end of Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedheemagu. Irushan was stabbed in the neck in a fight between the two gangs inside a lorry. He died at 7:47pm.
The second attack occurred inside Fathir’s home at 9:30pm. CCTV footage shows two boys attack Fathir with knives in the doorway to his house. He attempted to run up the stairs, but the assailants ran after him and stabbed him in the back repeatedly.
Fathir died at 10:30pm. His assailants were also under age and were part of the fight that evening.
The two boys arrested over the attacks “have had interactions with the police and been involved in crimes,” said Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh.
When questioned why police had failed to prevent the second attack despite launching a special operation on the same day, Abdulla Nawaz, assistant commissioner of police, said: “The second attack occurred in a private residence… the police were active on the streets, this is why we were not able to pinpoint the attack.”
Some 19 individuals who were arrested in a special operation to curb crime have been released from police custody. All 19 were arrested on suspicion of planning to disrupt public order and safety following raids of three homes in the capital, a spokesman said.
A further seven suspects were meanwhile arrested on Saturday on suspicion of planning to commit acts of violence, the spokesman added. They remain in custody.
The murders sparked outrage among the public, with some accusing the government of neglecting law enforcement while clamping down on the opposition’s activities. At the time of the deaths, more than 50 police officers were dispersing a crowd gathered for a pre-Ramadan feast organised by the Maldivian Democratic Party.
The deployment of more than 50 police officers to disperse the MDP gathering “shows that the police institution is one that does not strive to ensure the security and safety of the public but as one that attempts to ensure the protection of the dictatorship,” the main opposition party said in a statement today.
The police have since tightened up security in the capital and stepped up patrols. Specialist Operations officers have been conducting random vehicle inspections and searches with the help of sniffer dogs trained to locate contraband.
Soldiers were also seen patrolling streets. However, the spokesman declined to confirm whether the police have sought the military’s assistance for joint security operations.
Blaming juvenile delinquency on blind love from parents, Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile told pro-government outlet Avas yesterday that he plans to send off minors involved in gangs to a police training facility on the island of Vaanee in Dhaalu Atoll.
Suspected gang members are now being monitored through electronic tags, a measure introduced in the new anti-terrorism law, he said.
Days before the murders, Naseer had claimed that police efforts to prevent assaults and stabbings have produced results as the crime situation has improved compared to three years ago.
While the number of assaults reported to police during the first five months of 2016 had declined, some 87 cases were reported last month, up from 71 in May 2015.
Both minors killed on Friday were attacked in the Maafanu ward of the capital in the space of four hours. The second is believed to have been a revenge killing.
The fatal stabbings followed several gang fights in Malé during the past two months. The motive for the stabbings is unclear.
On the night of May 13, a young man was assaulted by three men on a motorbike on the Vaijehey Magu in Henveiru. The victim sustained minor injuries and the assailants fled after leaving their motorbikes.
Two suspects were arrested later that night but have since been released. On the same night, two young men were stabbed near the Jelly restaurant in Malé around 1:00am. They were released after treatment at the ADK hospital.
On April 27, Sun Online reported a gang fight in the Henveiru ward of Malé involving about 20 young men. Eyewitnesses said they were carrying wooden planks and iron rods.
A fight between two rival groups near the Maadu garage in Henveiru was also reported three days earlier.
Two young men were meanwhile arrested on April 10 following a gang fight in a narrow alley near Sosun Magu in Malé.
Earlier this month, a foreigner working at a stall at the night market was assaulted by three Maldivian men. The victim reportedly sustained serious injuries and two suspects were taken into custody.
Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih and additional writing by Ahmed Naish.