Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Maldives

Overview: The Government of Maldives’ counterterrorism efforts concentrate on countering terrorist recruitment and radicalization and limiting the flow of FTFs. Marginalized Maldivians, those within the penal system or involved in criminal gangs, and those educated in Arab Gulf states are at a heightened risk of radicalization to violence, with some joining terrorist groups. The Government of Maldives claims to have intercepted 68 Maldivians attempting to travel to Syria from 2016 to 2018, while 61 Maldivians were conducting terrorist attacks abroad. Media reports also illustrated a pattern of Maldivians transiting through third countries to become FTFs. In January, the Defense Minister announced that authorities were aware of three returned FTFs but did not reveal what action was taken in these cases. Since August, media reports indicated at least six individuals with known links to terrorist groups were released from prison, including a Maldivian charged with joining a terrorist organization while in Pakistan, but freed based on insufficient evidence. In 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) charged five Maldivians with planning to detonate an IED.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Maldives in 2018.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is the primary legislation for preventing and prosecuting terrorism. However, as recently as summer 2018, under the previous government, Maldives used the PTA to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting journalists, political opposition figures, and other activists, including making several high-profile arrests during a state of emergency declared by former President Abdulla Yameen in February. The PTA criminalizes joining or fighting in a conflict abroad. In June, media reported that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) arrested a group of Maldivians attempting to travel to Syria, including one who had already been banned from traveling through a court order after a previous attempt to travel to Syria. In 2018, the PGO charged one Maldivian with intent to participate in a foreign war, and charged five Maldivians with planning to detonate an IED.

By the end of 2018, the Criminal Court had yet to issue verdicts against four Maldivians who had been charged in 2017 with attempting to participate in the fighting in Syria. In November, the court ordered the conditional release of two Maldivians, also charged in November 2017, with conspiring with ISIS to launch a suicide attack in Malé, based on their treatment during detention since their arrest in September 2017. In October, the court conditionally released two of the four suspects charged in August 2017, with possessing IED-related items, based on medical grounds. In August, the Criminal Court acquitted a Maldivian charged with joining a terrorist organization while in Pakistan, citing insufficient evidence.

MPS is responsible for counterterrorism investigations and transfers cases to the PGO for the duration of the trial. The country’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) coordinates interagency counterterrorism policy and liaises with international security partners. NCTC falls under the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), with participation from MPS, Customs, Immigration, and other agencies. Responsibility for counterterrorism operations, including investigations, primarily rests with MPS. MNDF, including the Maldives Marine Corps and Coast Guard, is responsible for counterterrorism response. Information sharing between agencies remains limited. Resort security managers and diplomats were unaware of specific government plans to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks.

Maldives uses a U.S.-provided border security system, PISCES, to process passengers at its main international airport and at the Malé seaport.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Maldives is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body. Maldives has authority to criminalize money laundering and terrorist financing under the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act, although authorities have not prosecuted any cases under the Act since it became law in 2016. Authorities previously reported that individuals transferred funds through informal money transfer networks (hawala) between islands, but they did not report the extent to which these systems were employed to transfer illicit funds.

Countering Violent Extremism: Since the 2017 launch of the National Strategy on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, NCTC has identified islands prone to radicalization and conducted a “Violent Extremism and Terrorism” workshop with senior educators in the greater Malé area, implemented youth leadership and training programs on several islands, and conducted a leadership program for young staff of the Island Aviation Services Limited, the country’s national airline.

International and Regional Cooperation: In 2018, Maldivian government officials participated in and jointly hosted international and regional workshops on counterterrorism efforts. The Maldivian government sent participants to U.S.-sponsored regional counterterrorism workshops and courses, such as the Comprehensive Security Response to Terrorism course at the Daniel K. Inouye-Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. In February, NCTC worked with UNODC to conduct a “train the trainers” session for South Asia on Investigation, Prosecution, and Adjudication of Foreign Terrorist Fighter Cases. In November, NCTC collaborated with UNODC in hosting a workshop on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Gender Mainstreaming in Criminal Justice Response to Terrorism. Also in November, legal experts and port and maritime security officers from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh attended a sub-regional workshop in London on implementing maritime counter terrorism instruments at the International Maritime Organization. In December, MNDF focused one of its annual bilateral military exercises with India on capacity building and developing interoperability for a joint response to terrorist incidents. In December, NCTC Director General and MPS officers participated in a UNODC-organized workshop in Singapore on countering terrorism financing and the proliferation of WMD.