It was a concern that India has been speaking about ever since the 26/11 attacks took place and today the vice President of Maldives, Mohammad Waheed Hassan too has allayed the same fears.
Activity in Maldives over the past three years has been subtle, but steady. There is a gradual build up some Islamic forces and slowly the country is threatening to become one of the biggest breeding ground of terror for self styled jihadis after Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Does India have reason to worry? The answer would be yes and plenty. It is after all the radical section of the Students Islamic Movement of India which has infiltrated in large numbers into Maldives. Sources in the Indian Intelligence Bureau confirm this fact while stating that there has been a movement of some SIMI cadres into Maldives. They also say that there has been constant monitoring of the youth from Maldives who are coming into India.
The vice president of that country also made it clear that these youth who are mostly students are following a version of Islam which is very rigid. Sources say that he is most probably referring to the Wahabi style of the religion which is rigid and is being followed by the Al-Qaeda which does not believe in Dargah worship and also finds every solution in a bloody battle.
The common belief was that after the breaking down of the Students Islamic Movement of India there was a set of people in it who formed the Indian Mujahideen. While one section of SIMI did move on to become the IM, there was another set of radicals who preferred to infiltrate into Maldives in particular and start to wage a war over there. Police sources say that many in the SIMI network have gone out of the radar. There has been intelligence to show that many had set base in Maldives as they had found it to be a safe haven. Camps have been set up and it has become a major cadre collection point. Students who are hand picked by extremists outfits enter into Maldives quoting job and education as the reasons. While one point of their entry is on the radar after a couple of months they suddenly go missing.
From here the youth are sent to either Pakistan or Afghanistan where there are further radicalised, trained and prepared to wage a battle. India is sure on the radar of such extremists. There has been a lot of talk about how the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was setting up of its stronger bases in Maldives and would want to launch sea borne attacks from this country.
Maldives faces a herculean task today thanks to this phenomenon. Back in the year 2009 there was an Al-Qaeda video which was in circulation showing youth being indoctrinated for terror. The Al-Qaeda had been picking up Maldivian youth at that time to battle in Afghanistan and according to records in that year alone nearly 150 youth from Maldives had gone missing and later found to be fighting along side the Al-Qaeda.
The Lashkar on the other hand has been setting up camps. There has not been much to show that the youth from Maldives have been used to wage the Lashkar battle. The Lashkar in fact has played it along quite safely and inputs go on to suggest that they are going about their job in a slow and phased manner. The arrangement with Maldives which permitted their citizens to stay on in India for 90 days without a visa had proved to a boon for outfits such as SIMI and the Lashkar. A great deal of movement was seen at that time and the majority of it was reported from Kerala. According to sources, Lashkar and SIMI have been eying Maldives since the year 2007 when the Sultan Park blasts took place. It was a way of announcing their presence in Maldives and as per the investigation conducted on the basis of the statements made by Asif Ibrahim it was the Lashkar and the SIMI which undertook this attack. However the attack was not carried out in the name of either of these outfits but a shadow outfit by the name Jammat-e-Muslimeen was floated for this purpose. India also had the investigation report of a man by the name Inas Moosa who was associated with this outfit.
The Sultan Park blast according to the experts was a turning point. There was a major hunt down which was conducted post this attack and the police trail led to a mosque on Himendu where some of the militants were holed up. There was violence that followed and this in fact helped the recruitment’s surge. More on the investigations also pointed to the kind of influx there has been in this country which led to the bomb blast. There were Maldivians, Indians, Pakistanis and also Sri Lankans involved in this attack. This in fact is a testimony to show how much these radical elements prefer Maldives as a base.
According to the Intelligence Bureau, the Lashkar has had a very similar approach in Maldives as it did in both India and Pakistan. A shadow organisation by the name Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq considered to be a front for the Lashkar was sent into Maldives to help the Tsunami victims in the year 2004. Since that there has been activity in the country and the results of the same we see today.
Apart from recruitment’s the Lashkar has concentrated on getting SIMI cadres and also youth from various other South Asian countries to set up a very strong base in Maldives. The Islands give them a perfect launching pad and the 26/11 attack did prove that a sea borne attack could be deadly. Reports would suggest that from India alone the Lashkar has possibly used the services of nearly a 1000 youth to set up base camps in Maldives.
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