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Widows of Maldivian fighters in Syria want to return

Six families have contacted the counter-terrorism centre.



Widows of Maldivian jihadis who left to fight in Syria and Iraq are seeking to return to the Maldives, the National Counter-Terrorism Center revealed Wednesday.

Brigadier Zakariyya Mansoor said at a press briefing that six families have contacted the center but there were many difficulties in bringing back the women and their children.

“I am talking about families that are calling us after becoming stranded and helpless when the husband dies,” the NCTC director general said.

The biggest challenge was the lack of identification documents for their children born out of the Maldives, Mansoor explained.

“The children that they had while they were in that area. They don’t have an ID card. We find it difficult to prove they are Maldivian citizens, to find a procedure to do this,” he said.

But the NCTC was working to facilitate their return as the state was responsible for Maldivian citizens, he said, adding that discussions are ongoing with with the police, foreign ministry, and immigration department.

According to statistics from the NCTC, 61 Maldivian men, along with the wives and children, have travelled out of the country to join foreign wars, mostly in Syria.

In July last year, a Maldivian man belonging to the Islamic State group was beheaded by a rival terrorist organisation in Syria.

The US-based security and risk management consultancy the Soufan Group has said around 200 to 250 Maldivians are known to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, making the island nation the highest foreign fighter contributor based on per capita.

But the previous government disputed the figure.

In 2017 three people charged with terrorism for attempting to cross into Syria from Turkey were acquitted as prosecutors could not prove their intent was to join a foreign war.