Maldives levels up main airport security with armed soldiers

A solider pictured at an artillery aboard an MNDF naval vessel. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

A solider pictured at an artillery aboard an MNDF naval vessel. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

The Maldives on Saturday deployed armed military forces to hike up the security of the country’s main gateway, Velana International Airport (VIA).

Minister of Defence and National Security Adam Shareef told Mihaaru that the deployment is indefinite. However, he was quick to assure that the sudden development is merely a security measure and has nothing to do with a potential terrorist attack on the archipelago.

“So far, we have not received a single threat of a [terrorist attack] on the Maldives; there’s no such fear,” he said.

The minister added that the soldiers are armed and will use explosives detectors during the operation. He did not provide further details, including the duration of their deployment.

The deployment of armed military at airports has become common practice around the world as defence against potential terror attacks. However, until the new operation, the soldiers of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) who oversaw airport security had not carried arms recently.

The government of the Maldives is currently working closely with several nations to combat terrorism. Notably, the police and MNDF have recently carried out joint operations with foreign security forces to capture Maldivians attempting to reach Syria to participate in its civil war.

Under a similar operation, three Maldivians fleeing to Syria were apprehended in Turkey on Saturday, during a joint operation with Maldives Police Service. The three people have since been extradited to the Maldives.

Two Maldivians were also arrested from a Malaysian terror ring last month. While they were not directly involved in the terrorist activities, authorities have stated that the duo were arrested for using Malaysia and Singapore as a transit point to depart to Syria. The duo have also been extradited though they were soon released by Police due to lack of enough evidence to keep them in custody.

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