The arrest of Reaz Qadir Khan in connection with the suicide bombing on the ISI headquarters at Lahore is yet another wake up call regarding the security set up Maldives. This island nation has become a launching pad for Jihadis and the problems are galore for various security agencies across the world.
Reaz Qadir Khan a resident of Portland according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided another accused Jaleel advise on how to travel undetected from Maldives. The FBI also states that Jaleel and a small group from the Maldives attempted to travel to Pakistan to train for Jihad. Further Khan also advised Jaleel to keep extra funds so that it could be sent to the latter’s two wives in Maldives. The FBI says that it would continue to focus on cutting off the flow of funds that help terrorists train, travel, and launch their attacks.
The Indian security agencies have always warned that Maldives is going the Nepal way and despite friendly relations, the lack of policing in both these nations is going to become a headache to deal with. India continues to deal with the problem of Maldives being used as a launching pad for Jihadis and also a hot spot to park slush funds which are used for terrorism related activities.
An official report in so far as Maldives becoming a favourite launching pad for jihadis makes some very interesting points. The biggest problem that is being pointed out is that numerous islands in Maldives which are unmanned. There are over 1100 islands which are widely disbursed in the open sea and sparsely populated. The Maldives government has no intent of promoting these jihadis, but do face a herculean task in policing these islands. The inter island links are extremely difficult to man and it has led to very ineffective policing.
India says that these islands need to be policed 24/7 through aerial monitoring, but also acknowledge the fact that this is a very difficult task. Maldives just does not have the resources to carry out this sort of policing and hence there is a need for like minded nations to come forward and help with aerial monitoring of all these islands which are being used as launch pads.
Maldives depends largely on tourism, import and export to support its economy and everything that consume barring the sea food is virtually imported. This has provided for an ideal operational condition for under and over invoicing and the bigger issue is that slush funds come in through this network. It is this same network which is used to send in slush funds which are normally raised through drug deals under the garb of import and export. Most of the drug money lands up in the hands of terrorists.
Indian agencies say that there is a dedicated channel through which such activities are carried out. Most of such activities are carried out from Sri Lanka and also the state of Kerala. It is for the Maldivian authorities with the help of the Indian agencies to monitor every activity generating out of Kerala and Sri Lanka as it has been seen several times that most of the slush funds are generated through this route.
India has a very big role to play in this and it has to provide the Maldivian government with constant intelligence support. If there is strong effective intelligence and a security structure in place the problem could be solved to a large extent. Indian agencies warn that a friendly relationship with the government is not sufficient to check the problem of terrorism. While the governments of Nepal and Maldives are very helpful to India, the Pakistan based agencies have still managed to set up bases which are a menace to India and the rest of the world.
Over the years both the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Al-Qaeda have set up strong launch pads in Maldives. These groups have identified the policing problems in this nation and also the lack of expertise to check slush funds. The interrogation of an operative by the name Asif Ibrahim who was arrested by the Kerala police also confirms the setting up of the Maldives base.
Ibrahim who is an accused in the Male Sultan Park blast of 2007 said that the operational unit for the India-Maldives terror base was based out of Kerala. It is a cycle where in money comes in from the Gulf and then is sent in to Maldives. He also said that the Lashkar and the Al-Qaeda uses shadow outfits called the Jammat-e-Muslimeen and thanks to a 90 day no visa policy many operatives have freely managed to move in.
Indian agencies say that the interrogation of Reaz Khan will help the fight against terror in Maldives. The US must realise the gravity of the situation and now that they have an operative with a Maldives link their custody, they would be able to generate more information. We would rely on the report of the US to step up our own intelligence network in order to prevent further attacks from the Maldives, an official with the agency also informed.