No jihadist recruitment group in Maldives, insists minister

Maldives government on Wednesday denied the existence of a jihadist and terrorist recruitment group in the archipelago.

Speaking during the ceremony to release the national counter terrorism unit's baseline study in extremism in the archipelago, defence minister Adam Shareef Umar said the study had aided authorities in identifying the extent of religious extremism and radicalization in the country.

According to the minister, the government has also been able to identify specific individuals and share their information with the relevant local and international agencies.

Maldives authorities have looked to stem the flow of locals joining the Syrian war, where various sources claims that Maldives has the highest number of fighters in Syria per capita.

Despite the high numbers, the minister said the study had revealed that there was no group recruiting jihadists from the Maldives.

"The claims made by various foreign parties, backed by a few locals are designed to defame the country and harm our tourism industry. But we've found that religious extremism does not exist to the extent as claimed by some foreign parties," the minister stressed.

Minister noted that the individual recruiters had specifically targeted youth, mostly through social networking sites which has directly and indirectly affected women and children.

Prosecutors meanwhile have charged several locals recently over allegations of joining foreign extremist groups.

Government has looked to take measures to curb the rising extremist ideologies in the island nation with the parliament in August last year passed a national policy on terrorism.