The Maldives Wednesday played down the United Kingdom’s updated travel advice to the country which said terrorists were “very likely” to carry out an attack, stressing the tropical paradise “remains one of the safest destinations in the world”.
More than 100,000 Britons visited the Maldives last year, the third biggest market, up from 90,000 in 2015.
In a statement issued hours after the update, the Maldives ambassador to the UK said there was no record of a fatal incident against a tourist.
Ambassador Ahmed Shiaan said he had been in contact with the UK’s foreign ministry over the travel update.
“They have assured me that the revision is not particular to the Maldives or based on any specific threat to the Maldives. In fact, travel advice for various other countries has also been updated to reflect the same information, using the exact same text. These updates are based on changes to the perceived threat level against UK citizens globally – given the tragic domestic events in recent months – rather than any changes in the nations themselves,” he said.
The statement added airport security in the Maldives had been increased to ensure traveller safety.
The UK’s foreign ministry said in its update that citizens should be vigilant due to a “heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria”.
Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar quelled rumours about terror threats, reiterating the Maldives was not at risk of an imminent terrorist attack.
He told Mihaaru that armed soldiers were deployed in response to threats of attacks against airports across the globe. Soldiers at airports will carry weapons indefinitely, he added.
There has been a spike in terror-related arrests in the Maldives.
On Sunday, local media reported the arrest of a Maldivian on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in collaboration with the Islamic State group. The man was reportedly arrested on September 14 and remanded to police custody but the authorities have so far declined to comment.
Four men were also arrested in late April in connection with an alleged terror plot. “Well done and Thanks to Police Services for stopping the bomb attack in the capital,” Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee tweeted at the time.
The heightened security in recent days prompted opposition figures to urge the government to share terror threat information with the public.
President Abdulla Yameen dismissed the opposition’s demand, saying it was regrettable that there were attempts to “bring such a bad label to the Maldives”.
“We are not a place that can be generalised and described as an extremist country. We are a small, tiny, Islamic state. But our Islam is a moderate acceptable version of Islam, we have been practising it for ages. There may be differences in opinion [among people] and just like that with religious ideology too. People who have a passion for something may have different opinions. But using this to bring such a bad label to the Maldives is sad. This is being done even by people who hold responsible positions,” he said.