Maldives

Overview:  The Government of Maldives is cognizant of the threat of terrorism and in 2022 continued to focus its CT efforts on CVE and arrests of Maldivians suspected of planning terrorist attacks or of “supporting or promoting a terrorist organization.”  Those within the penal system or involved in criminal gangs are at heightened risk of terrorist radicalization.  Maldives works with the United States and international partners to strengthen CT efforts and capacity.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  On June 21 a group of men, 17 of whom were later charged with terrorism-related crimes, attacked participants at a public International Day of Yoga event in Male with water bottles and flags.  Before the event, religious NGOs and scholars asked authorities to stop it, alleging it was “irreligious.”

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Maldives established general regulations and a regulation on rehabilitation and reintegration under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) and passed a Prohibition on Chemical Weapons.

There were no significant changes to law enforcement capacity.  The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), including the marines and coast guard, and Maldives Police Service (MPS) remained jointly responsible for CT response.  The MPS established a Joint Intelligence and Investigations Team (JITT), which covers terrorism and other transnational crimes.  The JITT requires the MPS to coordinate early on with the Prosecutor General’s Office on investigations.  The MNDF conducted multiple cooperative engagements with U.S. forces focused on CT operations and enhancing maritime security capabilities to increase domain awareness and security.  Maldives also continued cooperating with the United States to strengthen its border security, including by using the U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) integrated border security management system to screen arriving and departing travelers, and through the Maldives Customs Service’s use of the World Customs Organization’s Global Travel Assessment System.

  • In January the MPS, working with international law enforcement officials, arrested Hoodh Mohamed Zahir, a Maldivian national suspected of promoting ISIS ideology and inciting acts of terrorism.  Zahir was charged with inciting acts of terrorism, promoting terrorism online, membership in a terrorist organization, supporting a terrorist organization, and possession of materials supporting a terrorist organization. In December the case was in the pretrial motions stage, with the last hearing held on December 5.
  • In March the MNDF and the MPS conducted a joint operation in Addu, arresting six individuals suspected of planning to carry out an act of terrorism. None of the suspects were charged with terrorism crimes and they were subsequently released.  In November the MNDF and the MPS conducted joint operations in Male, Addu, and Guraidhoo Island, arresting 14 individuals also suspected of planning an act of terrorism.  At year’s end this investigation remained under way, with seven individuals in detention, and no charges yet filed.
  • In October, 17 men were charged with crimes under the ATA and the Penal Code relating to the violent disruption of the International Yoga Day event. The charges include encouraging to commit an act of terrorism, committing and aiding to commit acts of terrorism, possession of documents supporting terrorist organizations, committing assault with a dangerous weapon, attempted battery with a dangerous weapon, obstruction of law enforcement, and obstruction of justice.  Defendants have been released under police supervision, pending the appointment of lawyers.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Maldives is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering; its FIU is established within the Maldives Monetary Authority.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

Countering Violent Extremism:  On March 11 the government facilitated the return of a Maldivian mother and her four children from northeast Syria, the first group of returnees under Maldives’ efforts to repatriate Maldivian families located in refugee camps and conflict zones.  They were placed in the National Reintegration Center following an initial screening and were undergoing a rehabilitation program at year’s end.  The National Counterterrorism Center (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.”  USAID supported some of the NCTC’s programming.  In partnership with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Ministry of Family, Gender & Social Services, the MPS continued Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) programs in islands with violent extremist activities.  Male is a member of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The government continued to work with multilateral and bilateral partners to strengthen its CT and countering terrorism financing (CTF) efforts.  The NCTC conducted national and regional-level capacity building consultations and workshops focusing on addressing the rehabilitation and reintegration of returning FTFs and their associated family members.  The NCTC also worked with UNDP Maldives, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directorate to increase capacity of law enforcement agencies, the legal sector, and the resilience of civil society organizations.

In 2020, USAID initiated a $5 million program in cooperation with the Ministry of Home Affairs on PCVE by conducting evidence-based research on violent extremism and improving career prospects, education, and employment opportunities for youth.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance conducted quarterly CTF consultations with the Maldives Monetary Authority, and case-based mentoring for the Maldives Police Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office.  The U.S. Department of Justice held programmatic activities on CT and CTF, including a regional CT prosecutors’ workshop, and provided case-based mentoring on CT and CTF investigations and prosecutions.  A corrections advisor from the International Criminal Investigation Training and Assistance Program worked with the Maldives Correctional Service on developing protocols and procedures for managing prisoners, and a CTF advisor embedded with MPS provided case-based investigation mentoring.

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