Nasheed calls for screening of preachers visiting Maldives

Island nation is on high alert since the Sri Lanka bombings

May 11, 2019 10:36 pm | Updated May 12, 2019 12:47 am IST - Colombo

Maldives ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.

Maldives ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.

Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, has called for thorough screening of Islamic priests visiting the island nation.

“While we are not certain if Zahran Hashim came to the Maldives in 2016 as a preacher, we should screen well before allowing people to come here posing as sheikhs and preachers,” he tweeted on Friday, referring to the alleged mastermind of the Sri Lanka Easter attacks.

Following the incident, and subsequent reports of the suspects’ movement in the region, security and intelligence agencies in the neighbourhood have enhanced scrutiny of travellers. Sri Lanka has expelled around 200 clerics for overstating their visas. Clarifying his tweet that was in Dhivehi, the language of Maldivians, Mr. Nasheed told The Hindu : “He [Zahran] might have travelled under another name, but the point is that we should be mindful in allowing preachers.”

Earlier, some reports indicated to Hashim’s likely travel to the Maldives. However, the Maldives Immigration authorities refuted the claim. An April 24 tweet from their official handle said: “Maldives Immigration can confirm that, based on our records, the Sri Lankan national known as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, involved in the Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. has not travelled to Maldives in the past five years or even beyond that.”

The Maldives has remained on high alert since the terror attacks shook Sri Lanka and is working on a coordinated response mechanism, involving the military and police, to face any contingency. The National Counter Terrorism Centre in identified 69 individuals who joined foreign wars.

In addition to developing a rehabilitation programme for radicalised individuals, the government is closely monitoring potential links that radicalised individuals might have with Islamist militant groups abroad, according to Male-based official sources. Security forces and Immigration have heightened scrutiny, though authorities have said no imminent threat that has been detected.

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