Overview: The Government of Maldives is cognizant of the threat of terrorism and in 2021 continued to focus its counterterrorism efforts on CVE and arrests of Maldivians suspected of plotting IED attacks and “supporting or promoting a terrorist organization.” Maldives works with international partners, including the United States, to strengthen CT efforts and capacity.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: On May 6, individuals labeled by the government as Islamic extremists attempted to assassinate Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed by detonating an IED in the capital city of Malé, seriously wounding Nasheed and injuring five others.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Antiterrorism Act (ATA) is the primary legislation for preventing and prosecuting terrorism. In December, the Maldivian government passed a third amendment to the ATA. This amendment authorizes Maldives Police Service (MPS) to arrest and detain suspects for certain ATA crimes for up to 48 hours without a warrant; allows courts to consider police intelligence reports in determining detention basis; extends the charging deadline to a maximum of 105 days for detained suspects; authorizes monitoring and control orders against suspects under 18 years of age; outlines special procedures for returning FTFs; mandates all FTFs either be arrested, placed under a monitoring and control order, undergo a rehabilitation program, or be placed in administrative detention pending a risk assessment; and outlines procedures for registering the birth of children born in conflict zones.
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) oversees the CT Intelligence Fusion Center to better coordinate CT efforts. In April, President Solih appointed a secretary to a newly established National Security Advisor office. In August the Minister of Home Affairs announced the establishment of a harmonized system to share information related to threats to national security between the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), MPS, and other relevant institutions, as required by the ATA. Responsibility for CT operations, including investigations, rests primarily with MPS. It shares investigative and evidentiary materials with the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) through an informal cooperative arrangement and provides the PGO with evidentiary packets for charging consideration. After charges are filed, MPS continues to support the investigation during the pretrial, trial, and sentencing phases. The MNDF, including the marines and coast guard, are responsible for CT response.
The MNDF conducted multiple cooperative engagements with U.S. forces focused on CT operations. The engagements also enhance maritime security capabilities to increase Maldives domain awareness and security. Maldives cooperates with the United States to strengthen its border security through use of the U.S.-provided PISCES integrated border security management system, which screens arriving and departing travelers, and through the Customs Department’s World Customs Organization’s Global Travel Assessment System. In January, MPS announced it had been granted real-time access to INTERPOL’s criminal database. In February, Maldives Immigration successfully implemented an integrated system to automatically upload stolen and lost travel document (SLTD) information to INTERPOL’s global database, with assistance from the United States’ INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Washington.
Nine men whom the government described as supporters of ISIS were charged under the ATA in relation to the May 6 IED attack on Speaker Nasheed. One of the nine, Adhuham Ahmed Rasheed, entered into a plea bargain agreement under which the Criminal Court sentenced him to 23 years’ imprisonment in December. In court, Rasheed said he participated in the attack because of religious beliefs. The remaining eight defendants were in pre-trial proceedings and remained in detention as of year’s end. Following the May 6 attack, MNDF and MPS conducted a series of joint operations in Malé and Addu, arresting at least 10 individuals suspected of being ISIS supporters, some of whom were charged with possession of material promoting a terrorist organization. Prosecutions were still in the pretrial phase at the end of the year.
The trial of Mohamed Ameen, the first Maldivian to be listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Affairs Control (OFAC), began in November. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s dismissal of the case. According to OFAC, Ameen materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for goods or services in support of ISIS-K, including through his activities as an ISIS-K recruiter. Ameen had been arrested in 2019 and charged with joining a terrorist organization and planning terror acts under the ATA. The trial was ongoing as of year’s end.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Maldives is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has the mandate to notify police and relevant authorities in terrorist finance-related cases. The United States has worked with the Government of Maldives to strengthen its AML/CFT efforts. At the end of the year, MMA was working closely with the Attorney General’s Office and PGO to amend legislation on AML/CFT, and regulations on asset recovery, with assistance from the United States.
Countering Violent Extremism: Although President Solih announced Maldives’ intent to facilitate the return and prosecution of Maldivian FTFs and families in Syria in 2019, no repatriations occurred during 2021. The Maldives began the development of a National Reintegration Center to process and rehabilitate returning FTFs and their families. The NCTC held numerous regional workshops and capacity building exercises with both public and private sector groups, to include counternarrative creation and the role of civil society and local leaders in countering what it considers violent extremism and terrorism. In partnership with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Ministry of Gender, Family & Social Services, the MPS continued CVE programs in islands with “extremist activities.” Malé is a member of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: COVID-19 reduced the ability of government officials to participate in or host international and regional workshops on CT efforts. However, the Government of Maldives continued to work with multilateral and bilateral partners to strengthen its CT efforts. In 2020, a visiting EU delegation announced the launch of a $2.8 million project to support Maldives’ efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
In May, Japan announced a roughly $4.7 million grant to bolster Maldives Immigration and Maldives Customs Service border security efforts. NCTC, in collaboration with UNODC, conducted national- and regional-level capacity building consultations and workshops focusing on addressing the rehabilitation and reintegration of returning FTFs and their families. The NCTC also worked with UNDP Maldives, UNODC, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to increase capacity of law enforcement agencies and the legal sector and the resilience of civil society organizations.