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Preaching licenses suspended as authorities launch counter-terrorism operation

Homes of suspected extremists raided on Maduvvari island.



The Islamic ministry has suspended preaching licenses of three scholars accused of encouraging terrorism as the police and military launched a special operation to raid homes of suspected extremists.

The licenses of Abdul Raheem Mohamed from Noonu atoll Lhohi island, Jaufar Faiz from Addu City and Mohamed Hassan from Gaafu Dhaalu atoll Thinadhoo were suspended on Tuesday. Abdul Raheem and Faiz were  “spreading hatred, encouraging inhumane and degrading acts and supporting civil wars in other countries,” the Islamic ministry said in a statement on Tuesday night.

Mohamed Hassan’s license was suspended because “he was speaking of disputed issues in Islam in a manner that would cause disunity in the community.” He was also accused of slandering prominent scholars and offering his own explanations and views on social media.

A joint operation was meanwhile launched by the police and military on Wednesday morning to apprehend suspected extremists on Maduvvari island in Raa atoll.

The operation targets a hardline separatist group that was depriving women and children of education, healthcare and vaccination, promoting radicalisation and violent extremism, and recruiting people for foreign terrorist organisations, police said in a statement. The homes of suspected extremists would be searched to check the state of the victimised women and children, it added. The extremists are also suspected of theft and other criminal offences.

A 30-year-old male suspect has since been arrested, police said on Wednesday afternoon.

In early December, a 13-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by a member of the extremist group on Maduvarri was taken into state care.

The crackdown comes after the police chief revealed on Monday that there were about 1,400 extremists in the Maldives who would not hesitate to kill in the name of Islam. 

According to police, 423 Maldivians attempted to join terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq, of which 173 people managed to enter the war zones. “Hundreds” of local extremists also travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan before the Syrian civil war, some of whom have been spreading radical ideologies since returning to the Maldives, Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said.