5 arrested in crackdown on separatists in uninhabited island in R. Atoll

Security services operate in R. Maduvvari on June 23, 2020.

Maldives Police Service, on Tuesday, announced it has arrested five suspects in an operation in R. Atoll, launched in connection to a group of separatists in an uninhabited island in the atoll engaged in crimes including organized robberies and damage to properties in residential and resort islands.

A police spokesperson on Tuesday afternoon announced the police have received reports of a group of people living in an uninhabited island in R. Atoll without taking permission from relevant authorities despite the ban on travel amid the state of public health emergency to curb the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

The spokesperson said police officers from across R. Atoll have been mobilized to respond to crimes committed by the separatist group operating out of the uninhabited island, including organized robberies and damage to properties in both residential islands and resort islands.

Five suspects have been arrested under court order and a sixth has been taken into custody.

All six were identified by the police as Maldivian males.

Police and military officers are also operating in R. Maduvvari, an island that was the scene of a similar operation in late December, in connection to the case.

Police officers raid residences linked with religious extremists in R. Maduvvari on December 18, 2019. (Photo/Maldives Police Service)

Maduvvari residents who spoke to Sun on Tuesday confirmed the security services are conducting a raid on a residence in Maduvvari which had been raided in a crackdown on alleged violent extremists in December 2019.

The crackdown last year, Operation Asseyri, had been launched on December 18 and had lasted over a week.

The police, in its statement announcing the commencement of the December operation, said the operation was launched “to counter religious extremism, religious separatism, denial of constitutional rights and exploitation of women and children, and spread of pro-terror propaganda and recruitment of locals for terrorist organizations in R. Maduvvari.”

It saw security forced conducting raids on multiple properties linked with alleged extremists, including private residences and boats. Six suspects were arrested in the operation; Maldivian men aged 22, 26, 28, 29, 30, and 34 years.

It also saw families who refused to have children taken to school and vaccinated provided counseling and have them vaccinated.