Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi has expressed concern on the dangers posed by religious extremists to the south-east Asian region.
In an email interview to Indian media 'The Hindu', Minister Mariya noted that there is a greater need for regional cooperation to battle terrorism.
Acknowledging that huge criminal operations such as arms and drug trade and money laundering are being easily executed due to the vulnerability brought about by religious extremism, the minister stressed on the importance of intelligence and information sharing, joint response capacity building, defense and security assistance and support within the region.
“In light of the stark reality, we must constitute robust mechanisms and regional infrastructure with haste to counter the primary threat of terrorism”, added Minister Mariya.
Speaking on the brutal terrorist attacks on neighboring Sri Lanka last month, the minister said the attacks are a wake-up call for the whole region, and a country such as Maldives that is predominantly dependent on tourism cannot take such attacks lightly.
“In the interest of vigilance, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Service have been holding joint, special emergency response exercises, testing various scenarios”, said Minister Mariya in response to a question on the recent special emergency response exercises conducted by the Maldives National Defence Force and the Police.
The Minister revealed that the government is formulating a rehabilitation program aimed at radicalized individuals in the Maldives.
Reiterating that the actual number of Maldivians abroad taking part in foreign wars is unknown, the estimated number is derived by the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) from information shared by family and friends of those who have reportedly traveled abroad to join foreign wars, said Minister Mariya.
“The NCTC puts the current figure at 69, excluding women and children", revealed the Minister.