Maldives arrests 3 suspected religious extremists on island

MALE, Maldives — Maldives police said they have raided a religious group that kept women and children isolated on an island and arrested three people suspected of spreading violent extremism.

Mohamed Basheer, a police officer in charge of serious and organized crime, said in a television interview that the raid was conducted Wednesday on the island northeast of the capital, Male.

Police said they received information about an isolated “quasi community” on the island that deprived women and children of their basic rights.

The group forced women and children to sever all ties with the outside world, prevented children from attending schools and being vaccinated, and forced them into child marriages, a police statement said. It said the group promoted radicalization and the recruiting of people for foreign extremist organizations.

The Indian Ocean archipelago nation, known for its luxury resorts, is majority Sunni Muslim and practicing or preaching other faiths is banned by law. The country is reported to have had the highest number of foreign fighters in Syria, where the Islamic State group was active.

Police say some of them have returned to the Maldives and are spreading radical ideologies there, according to the Maldives Independent newspaper..

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