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Friday, March 1, 2024

Maldivian President Muizzu’s tacit support to terror operatives is an imminent threat to India


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There is an imminent threat from Lashkar-E-Toiba and ISIS operatives to India from Maldives. Most of the terror operatives have been trained in Pakistan but form a part of the network operating out of Maldives. And, with the President of Maldives Dr Mohammed Muizzu having a soft approach to dealing with issues of terrorism and terror operatives, the situation could get precarious for India.

The recent arrest of a former soldier in the Pakistan Army Riyaz Ahmed on February 4th, 2024 by the Delhi police is yet another indicator of the dangerous nexus of Pakistan-trained Maldives-based terror operatives working in India.

Our sources in the intelligence community have revealed to us that Riyaz Ahmed trained at the LeT Training Camp in Muridke and also served as an instructor at the camp before moving to India and living in India for several years.

It is pertinent to note that the LeT training camp in Muridke was also the camp where David Headley, the known reconnaissance man linked to the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack was trained. Interestingly, Mohammed Ziliyan – a Maldivian – unknown to Indian investigators at the point in time, was the second reconnaissance man with the job of providing details of the Taj Hotel, Trident-Oberoi, Nariman House, and other critical data points along with photographs and videos was also trained on Duraa-E-Aam and Duraa-E-Khas, which are the two LeT training modules at Muridke, Pakistan.

In the last week of September 2023, Mohammed Shahnawaz and his friends Mohammed Rizwan Ashraf and Arshad Warsi were arrested by the Delhi Special Cell after months of a wait-and-watch approach by the Indian authorities. Investigations, post the arrest revealed that all three were ISIS operatives, indoctrinated and trained by a Maldivian woman and her brother. They were approached by the Maldivian operatives through a Telegram channel ‘Caged Parrot’

The arrest of Mohammed Shahnawaz was a timely and live-saving intervention by the Indian authorities because he along with his fellow terror operatives was planning a series of bomb blasts across India and on its list were Ayodhya, Akshardham Temple New Delhi, and Chabad House in Mumbai. Mohammed Shahwaz, who is a mining engineer, was caught with components procured to make an IED device for its planned bomb blasts in the recced destinations Ayodhya, New Delhi, Mumbai, and also Gujarat.

The Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks had not one Maldivian hand but two. Mohammed Ziliyan was the reconnaissance man but Ali Aashama aka Ali Sham was the supplier of some stash of weapons to undertake the horrific terror strike that claimed several lives at India’s commercial capital. Ali Aashama along with a Bangladeshi LeT operative Faisal Haroun worked together in India, particularly in the coastal belt of India, and were tasked with the job of building the LeT network in South India. Their work focused on indoctrinating, training, and hiring men and women in regions of Kerala and coastal Karnataka to wage ‘Islamic war’ or ‘Jihad’ against India. During the logistical planning of the Mumbai 26/11 attack, both Ali Aashama and Faisal Haroun were given their assignments to procure weapons and send them to India to execute the terror operation that was undertaken by Ajmal Kasab and the other terrorists. Ali Aashama was also the reconnaissance man for the LeT in India, his role to light when he was given the responsibility of identifying targets to hit in Bengaluru. His reconnaissance data, pictures and videos were critical to executing the terror attack at the IISC, Bengaluru.

Former President of Maldives Mohammed Nasheed had in two interviews one in 2009 and one in 2013 with an Indian media channel revealed that there were Maldivian hands in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks.

There is no doubt that Maldives is a very fertile ground for the recruitment of radicalized Muslims to be trained to wage ‘Islamic war’ against the infidels in the Indian sub-continent.  The indoctrination and recruitment are done by frontal organizations such as the Islamic radical organization Jamiyyath Salaf.

Incidentally, the President of Jamiyyath Salaf, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Ibrahim is the relative of the President of Maldives, Dr Mohammed Muizzu. Sheikh Abdullah also called Abdullah Bin Janaab is the brother of the wife of President Muizzu, first lady of Maldives. It is important to point out that a brother of Sajidha Mohammed and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Ibrahim – Ibrahim Mohammed also trained at the LeT camp in Muridke, Pakistan.

The links between Maldivian terror operatives have been found not only in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks but other planned terror attacks in India which have been thwarted by Indian intelligence agencies and local law enforcement authorities since 2007. Investigations into the planned terror strike on the US and Israeli consulates in 2014 revealed yet another disturbing truth. Sakir Hussain, who was arrested by the Indian authorities during interrogation revealed that Pakistan Intelligence Agency ISI had hired him as a reconnaissance man to take pictures and watch the movement of officials at the US and Israeli consulate in Bengaluru. He further revealed that ISI had told him they would be sending two men from Maldives and he had to assist with their cover documents and safe hideouts.

After the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, LeT operatives went underground due to immense international pressure on Pakistan. To keep its operations alive and dodge the watchful eye of several intelligence agencies, the LeT in 2010 attempted to reorganize its group and look at new territories to continue its operations. In early 2010, a dossier by Indian intelligence named a Pakistani national Rashid Abdullah aka Rehan as a senior LeT commander with special responsibility for leading LeT’s anti-India activities in the region including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates.

The strategy deployed by LeT is known as the ‘encirclement’ strategy in intelligence circles. Pakistani-backed LeT is to use India’s neighbours as hideouts and launching pads for anti-India activities. This shocking truth came to light in 2009 with the arrest of Mohammed Omar Madni, Chief of LeT operation in Nepal and India, and with the arrests of Mufti Obaidullah and Maulana Habibullah and Asif Reza of Commando Force (ARCF) in Bangladesh. While LeT had been successful in setting up its basis in Nepal and Bangladesh, it intriguingly managed to be extremely effective in infiltrating Sri Lanka and Maldives. This was revealed in the confessions of Sabahuddin Ahmed one of the accused in Mumbai 26/11 terror atatck. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence. He told investigative agencies that a Maldivian named Ali Aashama did reconnaissance of targets in Bengaluru before the 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Technology and also revealed his role in the supply of weapons for the Mumbai 2008 terror attack.

The current Maldivian government under President Dr Mohammed Muizzu has a soft approach in dealing with terror operatives due to his known relationship with Jamiyyath Salaf. His government has brought back 24 ISIS terror operatives and their families from the Al Hawal Camp on the Iraq-Syria border back to Maldives. A chartered plane was hired with expenses paid for by the Maldivian government to fly back Maldivians who worked for ISIS in Syria. It is important to state that Maldivians are recruited for their fierce fighting nature and ability to survive in tough conditions when compared to Bangladeshis or Indians who joined ISIS. More importantly, the radicalism is intense and they are driven by fanaticism, which makes them easy to manipulate and utilise for terror activities.

In recent months owing to the deterioration of India-Maldives relationships on account of the President of Maldives Dr Muizzu ‘India Out’ focus, there is chatter in the terror networks in both Maldives and Pakistan about using the opportunity to foment trouble of a terrorist nature with a focus on targetting temples and important Israeli sites in India such as the Chabad house in Mumbai because they know that they will find a safe-haven in Maldives. Currently, in India, there are sleeper cells of LeT and ISIS operating with strong links to the Maldives and they will be planning to target Ayodhya, Delhi and Mumbai. Maldivian operatives are effective recruiters of Indians, as seen in the arrests of Mohammed Shahnawaz, Mohammed Rizwan Ashraf and Arshad Warsi, and as revealed during their interrogations. Their Maldivian recruiters are still at large and are believed to be back in Maldives. The Maldivian mastermind behind the Bengaluru terror attack at IIT campus is still at large and neither have Maldivian terrorists Mohammed Ziliyan or Ali Aashama been tracked down. Therefore, there is an imminent threat to India from LeT, ISIS operatives who have been trained in Pakistan and based in Maldives. Indian authorities also need to be highly alert around the coastline and be prepared to intercept suspicious boats and their inhabitants.

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