Maldives appears to be emerging as yet another potential hub for the Islamic State (IS) and their supporters.
Well placed sources here have revealed that the ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives, a tropical nation of 26 islands, is giving space to the IS or ISIS to establish a dangerous and frightening terror presence that could have adverse internal security and economic repercussions, both in the short as well as the long term.
The sources said the political turmoil in the archipelago has surfaced because of the existence of two distinct camps – one supposedly loyal to President Abdulla Yameen and the other to Vice President Adeeb.
Late last month, in an alarming revelation, Islamic radicals linked to IS and the jihadist group ‘Bilad Al Sham Media’, which is believed to be based in Syria and the Maldives, claimed responsibility for the September 28 explosion aboard a speed boat that was carrying President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim. Both narrowly escaped with their lives, but their bodyguard and an official attached to the President’s Office suffered injuries and had to be admitted to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in capital Male for treatment.
According to sources, a three-minute-long YouTube video carrying the IS logo has triggered speculation of the IS or ISIS being behind the incident reportedly because its demands for the release of Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran and the withdrawal of the new anti-terror bill are yet to be met.
The reported IS involvement, appears to indicate the possibility of Maldives security forces getting increasingly radicalised, and the well placed sources are claiming that the attack on President Yameen could not have taken place without IS elements penetrating the country’s elite Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).
The September 28 terror strike is said to be the first major one in the Maldives after the September 2007 explosion at the Sultan Park in Male.
There is also speculation that a section of the MNDF loyal to Vice President Adeeb, who reportedly controls criminal gangs and the drug mafia in Maldives and allegedly provides a regular flow of IS activists from Maldives, may have helped the IS to carry out the blast on the presidential boat.
The sources warned that growing domestic Islamic fundamentalism or extremism, coupled with deteriorating law and order and persistent threats to opposition parliamentarians and the media has the potential to further aggravate economic hardship, reduce tourism revenue footfalls and increase unemployment, which the Maldives can ill afford.
Last month’s explosion highlights the need for restoration of democratic values and a comprehensive deradicalisation strategy to give cynical and disillusioned Maldivians some hope for a better tomorrow.