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Radical Maldives should alarm neighbours, Male Opposition warns India

NEW DELHI: The brutal killing of a liberal blogger in Maldives has again brought to the fore the risk from increasing radicalisation in India’s neighbourhood. The Maldives Opposition has repeatedly urged India in the past to take up the issue with the Abdulla Yameen administration but India, constrained by the Chinese embrace of Yameen, has chosen to largely ignore the growing extremism.

The pro-democracy blogger, Yameen Rasheed, was stabbed to death at his home. The united Maldivian opposition has demanded an impartial probe – involving international agencies – into the gruesome murder.

“Growing numbers of radicalized Maldivians should be alarming to neighboring countries as they are often affiliated to other organizations or outfits that carry out terrorist attacks in the region,” former foreign minister of Maldives Ahmed Naseem told TOI.

“Presently more than 200 Maldivians are believed to have joined the war in Syria and many of them are expected to eventually return. There were radicalized Maldivians involved in the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and a group of armed Maldivians were arrested in Waziristan and Peshawar in 2009,” added Naseem, who’s also a senior leader of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP led by former president Mohamed Nasheed has in the past repeatedly accused the Yameen government of encouraging extremism in the country. International media reports have often highlighted how Maldives is the largest contributor to foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq in terms of per capita.

According to Naseeem, Salafist groups, who are seen to foment radicalization, had their funding openly taken over in 2014 by President Yaameen’s coalition partner and leader of the Maldivian Development Alliance Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam.

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“And while being locally funded as political militants, there is no control over them being influenced by foreign directed ideology and participation in terrorist attacks in the region. I believe that incidents of growing radicalism in Maldives will have dire regional impacts and are matters of immediate concern to all neighboring countries,” said Naseem.

Rasheed was said to be a close friend of Ahmed Rilwan, an Independent journalist who had disappeared in 2014 and has not been found since. The MDP has alleged that Rasheed’s murder might be linked to the disappearance of Rilwan.

The MDP has, in fact, also alleged that President Yameen might be linked in some way with Rilwan’s disappearance. “Last year, the Al Jazeera documentary Stealing Paradise revealed that President Yameen appeared to be involved in a cover-up over Rilwan’s disappearance,” it said in a statement.

According to the opposition, Rasheed had actively worked with Rilwan’s family recently to file a case against the Maldives Police Service under the Right to Information Act, regarding the police investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance.

Opposition has blamed government apathy to growing extremism for the violence against pro-democracy activists. It is also in that context that the Opposition, fearing an influx of Wahabbi scholars, sought to block alleged attempts by the Yameen government to sell an entire island to Saudi Arabia.

While the opposition says that more than 200 Maldivians have travelled to Iraq and Syria, the Yameen government believes that the number is actually around 50.

In the past, former president Nasheed himself has said that India needed to act to prevent Maldives from turning into a fertile ground for IS.

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