Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't worry, no Al Qaeda in Maldives: Minister

Iraq Al Qaeda Link

The Maldives is free from the 'virus of terrorist brands like Al Qaeda' and it is grateful to India for sending its intelligence agencies to probe the first ever terror attack that shook the atoll nation two months ago, says Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.

'The attack was a major shock to the Maldives and to the international community. We are committed to the Maldivian way of life,' Shahid, who was here recently on his first visit to India as foreign minister, told IANS.

'We are encouraged by the international community's response (after the attack). We welcome India's strong statement condemning the attack. I met Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New York when the attack occurred,' he said.

Shahid made the comments in the context of the Sep 29 bombings at Sultan Park in Male that shattered the calm of the paradise-like Maldives, a prized destination for wealthy Western and Japanese tourists.

'We carried out investigations with the help of Indian and American intelligence agencies. No connections with well-known terror brands have come up. We don't want to rule out the involvement of foreign elements,' he said, when asked if he suspected the involvement of Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the bombings.

'Maldives has had a moderate Islamic philosophy. We are more vigilant now,' he said.

'Indian and Maldivian intelligence and defence forces cooperate in more ways than one,' the foreign minister said.

'Whenever there has been a crisis, India has been a friend. The Maldives and India hold an annual joint defence exercise called Dosti,' he said.

Then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi sent Indian troops to the Maldives in November 1988 to foil an attempt by Sri Lankan Tamil militants to oust President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Shahid said the Maldivian government had set up a committee to probe the proliferation of extremism in South Asia and its recommendations were being implemented.

'The global village is afflicted with a virus which is spreading. Terrorists who want to intimidate civilised society will always want to find a way out. But we are ready to rebuff any such attacks.'

Shahid conjured up a positive picture of the democratic reforms in his country and said this will pave the way for multi-party elections in November 2008.

Source: Earth Time

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