The Saudi king’s official visit was cancelled over fears that terror cells set up by a Yemeni man in the Maldives could pose a threat to King Salman and his delegation, the Asian News International has reported.
Contrary to the government’s claim that the visit was postponed due to a flu outbreak, “sources in the Maldives security establishment” told ANI that serious concerns about a possible terror threat led to the cancellation.
According to ANI, the Yemeni national, Yasir Yahya, was arrested on a terror charge based on intelligence provided by Saudi agencies. He was suspected of recruiting Maldivians for militant groups and deported to Saudi Arabia.
“The advance security team comprising of Saudi military officers, who had arrived in Malé weeks before the King’s arrival in the country is said to have expressed serious doubts about the security arrangements and cover being provided by the host government, especially in the face of the imminent terror threat in the country,” ANI reported.
The police spokeswoman dismissed the ANI report as patently false.
She confirmed that a Yemeni national was arrested and handed over to the immigration department, but declined to provide any further information.
Home Minister Azleen Ahmed also told Raajje TV today that there was no connection between Yahya’s arrest and the postponement of the king’s visit, accusing foreign media outlets of trying to “muddy” the situation in the Maldives.
He insisted that the flu outbreak was the sole reason behind the decision.
Raajje TV reported last week that Yahya was arrested on the night of March 3 with a court warrant. He is married to a Maldivian woman and had been working as an Arabic language teacher at both the Ahmadhiyya International School and Arabiyya School in Malé for about a year.
According to the station, Yahya’s marriage visa was also cancelled after his arrest with the controller of immigration invoking special legal powers.
The immigration department’s media official was not responding at the time of publication.
A Saud-led military intervention against the Houthi rebels in Yemen is ongoing in the impoverished, war-torn nation. The conflict has killed an estimated 10,000 civilians.
King Salman has meanwhile returned to Riyadh after concluding his rare, three-week-long Asian tour. Newspaper Mihaaru reported today that medical equipment, machinery and furniture brought in ahead of the visit to the One and Only Reethi Rah Resort are being packed and sent back.
Three resorts in the Malé atoll were reportedly booked for 10 days.
A support vessel from the Saudi royal navy with two helicopters and King Salman’s luxury yacht Al Salamah also arrived in the Maldives during the past week.
Additional reporting by Shafaa Hameed