A popular teacher has been arrested on the southern island of Kunahandhoo in Laamu atoll on suspicion of links to terrorist organisations, sparking protests from incredulous islanders.
Abdulla Mauroof was arrested around midnight on Sunday, a day after he was sacked from his job as leading teacher at the Kunahandhoo island school.
Asmau Abubakuru, president of the Kunandhoo island council, told The Maldives Independent that Mauroof was taken into custody by a group of around 30 police officers.
“They say he has links with terrorist organisations, but we find it hard to believe that. He is a good, pious man, the community trusts him,” he said.
A young man who photographed the arrest was also taken into police custody at the harbour area.
A police spokesman confirmed the arrest of a 36-year-old man “in relation to an ongoing investigation under a court order.”
A second individual was arrested from Kunahandhoo on a charge of obstructing police duty, he added, but he has since been released.
Irate parents of Kunahandhoo students meanwhile gathered in front of the school this morning in protest against Mauroof’s arrest.
“I was informed that only a couple of students attended school today out of a total of 122 students, despite this being the exam period,” Asmau said.
According to the council president, Mauroof was informed of his dismissal while he was at the school on Sunday.
Mauroof’s laptop and hard-drive as well as the computer system he used at work had been confiscated by the police around two months ago “on suspicion of involvement in some serious criminal matter.”
The teacher’s arrest follows the state raising charges against three Maldivian men caught attempting to illegally enter Syria.
The three are the first to face prosecution for traveling abroad with the intent of joining a terror group under a controversial new anti-terror law passed last year.
The Anti-Terrorism Act also prescribes lengthy jail sentences for individuals found guilty of involvement with a terrorist organisation.
The current administration has come under fire from the opposition over its inability to stem the flow of radicalised Maldivians leaving to fight in the Syrian civil war.
At a UN General Assembly debate on Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in February, the Maldives’ representative touted the anti-terror legislation and the 2014 Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act as “concrete actions [taken] to curb the stem of foreign terrorist fighters.”
In March, OGN Syria interviewed three young Maldivian men fighting with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al-Nusra Front.
At least six Maldivians fighting with the Al-Nusra Front are believed to have been killed in battle.
Photo from Kunahandhoo council.