News World Australian stabbed in Maldives in IS-inspired attack

Australian stabbed in Maldives in IS-inspired attack

Three men linked to Islamic State have been arrested over the attack on Tuesday local time. Photo: Twitter
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An Australian man working in the Maldives is recovering in hospital after being stabbed in an apparent Islamic State terror attack.

Police said three men, including two Chinese nationals, were stabbed on Tuesday night in Hulhumale, an island 7km north of capital city Male.

Police told the ABC a video, published on social media, was of the Australian victim and described his injuries as “not serious”.

One of the Chinese nationals was a tourist and the two others worked in the city. They were in stable conditions in hospital, police said.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was trying to contact an Australian man hospitalised in the Maldives.

“Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” a spokesperson said.

Maldives police said three men were arrested over the stabbing and were probing their suspected links with Islamic State, officials say.

A Maldivian radical group affiliated with Islamic State had taken responsibility for the attack in a video posted online, local media reported on Wednesday.

One of the three masked men seen in the video accused the Maldivian government of being run by infidels and warned more such attacks were coming.

Police said they were working to confirm the veracity of the video.

Last year, a 35-year-old man identified as a leader for Islamic State in the Maldives by the US authorities was arrested for allegedly leading Islamic State recruitment in the mainly Sunni Muslim nation.

The archipelago in the Indian Ocean derives much of its income from tourism.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Sri Lanka in April last year and has been looking to bolster its presence in the subcontinent after being driven out of its self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Counter-terrorism agencies get more power amid rising IS groups

The Maldives parliament has given sweeping investigative powers to counter-terrorism agencies and authorities have stepped up operations against hardline Islamist groups.

Azim Zahir, an expert in extremism in the Maldives at the University of Western Australia told the ABC the attack was “not an ordinary mugging case”.

“These attacks occurred concurrently,” he said.

“That gave me the suspicion it’s not an ordinary mugging case.

“Authorities recently started to crack down on terrorist activity [in the Maldives].”

He said the attack could also be an effort to disrupt the island nation’s tourism industry.

“It would really hurt the Maldivian tourism industry,” he told the ABC.

“Because the Maldives are reliant on the image of a peaceful paradise.”

According to news website Maldives Independent, almost 1500 people who live in the Maldives have “fallen into extremist ideology to the point where they would not hesitate to take the life of the person next to them”.

In December, Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed told a local conference 423 Maldivians attempted to join terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq, of which 173 people managed to enter the war zones.

He said “hundreds of local extremists also travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan before the Syrian civil war, some of whom have been spreading radical ideologies since returning to the Maldives”.

-with agencies