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#Maldives: 24 years after Nov 3 massacre: Are the terrorists back masquerading as a political party? Part 1

#Maldives: November 3rd, 2012 marks the 24th anniversary of the bloody massacre that left the blackest of stains on Maldivian hearts and history. Nineteen innocent Maldivians were slaughtered and several injured. Hundreds were held at gunpoint for hours, many later taken away as hostages. Immense damage was given to public and private property. Maldives was rescued by troops sent by Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi. The leader of the failed coup was a man called Sikka Ahmed Ismail Maniku, a man who had previous convictions for coup attempts against previous governments. The coup leader's nephew, Mohamed Nasheed, was installed as President in 2008, at the head of a political party whose top leadership comprised of family members and others involved in the 1988 November 3 massacre.

Nasheed's cabinet, senior political advisors and state ministers included terrorists convicted for their involvement in the November 3 massacre. As Nasheed denounces the current government of Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan as having usurped power in a military coup, it is timely to look at a real coup, the November 3 armed attack on Maldives, and its intricate links to Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party. This article is the first in a series of articles which attempts to throw light onto these links.

Perhaps the most accurate classification of the November 3 coup was that of Nasheed's Chief of Staff Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel. Moosa Jaleel, then a Lieutenant in the armed forces, had led an armed troop of 10 servicemen out of the military headquarters within which the military were pinned down by the mercenaries in their surprise attack.

In an interview to the daily paper Haveeru on 4 November 2010, Major General Jaleel said, "It wasn't a coup to overthrow the government of the time. November 3 was a massacre of the Maldivian people. I say this, because, if it was an attempt to overthrow the Government, then why did they fire at unarmed civilains? Why did they shoot unarmed civilians with guns held at their head, innocents who had no military or government involvement?".

He pointed out that the armed Maldivians and their mercenaries used their military weaponry to fire at innocent unarmed civilians, civilians who were going about their daily lives. "The attackers were acting in a war syndrome", Major General Jaleel said, "Their mentality was to kill any moving thing that could move from one place to another".

Although the PLOTE (Sri Lankan People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam) mercenaries were led in the field by only two Maldivians, investigations later revealed their masters and others who had participated in the coup. The attack leader was an escaped convict called Abdulla Luthufee, of H. Haajaraage. His paymaster and coup leader was Sikka Ahmed Ismail (Bodu Sikka), Nasheed's uncle. As was the case with Sikka Ahmed, Luthufee too had been convicted on a previous attempt to smuggle in guns to kill the then President Ibrahim Nasir. Luthufee was the man assigned the task of shooting President Nasir.

In the November 3rd court case against him, Abdulla Luthufee testified how he was paid and kept in Colombo by Sikka Ahmed Ismail Maniku. It was revealed that all Luthufee's expenses from a young age had been met by his "benefactor" Sikka Ahmed Ismail. From a very young age, Luthufee was engaged in a homosexual relationship with Sikka Ahmed Ismail. Sikka Ahmed was well known in local circles and in Colombo as a homosexual who kept various young boys as bed partners at various locations in Male' and Colombo.

Former President Nasheed was another young man whose expenses were looked after by Sikka Ahmed Ismail, on the largesse Sikka Ahmed received from tourism resorts and permits given by his two assassination targets, Presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed's British education, his years in Sri Lanka and later his "opposition" activities in Male' were funded by Sikka Ahmed whose objective was to project a close family member into Maldivian politics. His choice, a militant nephew, with a family history of coup attempts, Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed's father Kerafaa Abdul Sattar was also a member of the Nasir assassination plot. Kerafa Abdul Sattar was tried for attempting to assassinate the President and sentenced to imprisonment during Nasir's Presidency. Kerafa Abdul Sattar's father Kerafa Dhon Maniku (Umar) (Nasheed's grandfather) was also a convicted coup leader, who attempted to assassinate then President Mohamed Amin Didi.November 3rd coup leader Sikka Ahmed Ismail is married to Kerafa Dhon Maniku's daughter Kerafa Zameera (Nasheed's father's sister).

Sikka Ahmed Ismail solicited the business backing for Nasheed, through Ali Abdulla (Aliya), Gasim Ibrahim (Villa),Go-Go Latheef and others, some based in Colombo and India (more on these links in the next article).

Eleven of the group of Maldivians who brought about the hundred or so Tamil terrorists to seize the Maldives were captured, tried and sentenced. Some local leaders of the coup group escaped justice and still roam at large. Sikka Ahmed Ismail was arrested, and sentenced to death by the High Court. However, using powers vested in the President under the Constitution, President Gayoom granted him a stay of execution and his sentence was commuted to a life term. Gayoom pardoned him in 1994 in humanitarian grounds, due to cardiovascular conditions said to be as a result of his heavy drinking. Sikka Ahmed Ismail was reported to be living in self-imposed exile near Ja-ela, Sri Lanka, until his nephew Nasheed became President.

Luthufee was also sentenced to death for his role in the massacre of 19 innocent Maldives, but Gayoom commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Keeping up a barrage of requests for medical treatment Luthufee managed to travel to Sri Lanka and India under Government funds, before finally escaping his captors in Sri Lanka. No attempt was made by the Nasheed Government to bring him back to serve his sentence, and Luthufee was allowed to roam freely, even giving media interviews to Sri Lankan Papers (The Island, November 3, 2011) with Nasheed's version of the November 3rd coup.

The most direct five links of the Nasheed presidency to Sikka Ahmed Ismail and his lifelong work to gain the presidency are five individuals who were all directly involved in the November 3 coup: Ibrahim Hussain Zaki (Nasheed's Special Envoy), Foreign Minister Kerafa Ahmed Naseem (Nasheed's second cousin), his Defence Minister Ameen Faisal (convicted terrorist for his involvement in November 3 coup), Minister of State for Defence Abdulla Shahid (convicted terrorist for his involvement in November 3 coup) and Faruhath Shaheer (Vice Chief of Staff, Defence Ministry). An indirect but equally powerful link is via Aminath Jameel (Nasheed's Minister of Health under whom large scale corruption occurred in the Ministry). Mrs Jameel was the wife of Sikka Ahmed's younger brother, Sikka Mohamed Ismail Maniku (Kuda Sikka).

Zaki, Sikka's close personal friend and drinking buddy, forged the link between PLOTE leader Uma Maheshwaram and Sikka's coup team. Zaki, who was associated with Uma Maheshwaram, arranged for a meeting between Sikka's assistant Abdulla Luthufee and Maheshwaram in Colombo in 1986. At the meeting, Luthufee put forward Sikka's plan for toppling the Maldivian Government and offered Maheshwaram a tourist resort, training grounds for PLOTE cadres and Maldives as a route to supply PLOTE with military arms. Upon Maheswaram's agreement to provide mercenaries for Sikka's armed attack, Sikka provided Maheshwaram with free lodging at his house in Colombo for the one and a half year period leading up to the November 3 attack. Luthufee also lived at the same house. Maheshwaram was introduced to Maldivian visitors as Mohamed, a Malaysian business partner of Luthufee's.

Zaki's involvement in the November 3 coup was reported by Sikka Ahmed, Luthufee and Karo Abbas (a retired serviceman who provided military details to Luthufee and Maheshwaram). However, Zaki's name was struck from the records upon direct instructions from the Commander in Chief Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, for reasons unstated in military records. Zaki, hailing from a prominent family with a past history of attempts to usurp the country's top posts, was at the time the Foreign Secretary. Military records however reportedly include a photo of Zaki standing with Uma Maheswaram at a PLOTE military camp during preparations for the attack on Maldives.

Zaki's next involvement with Sikka's political machinations came with the move to register the Maldivian Democratic Party. At that time, the lead was taken by the business group above mentioned. Zaki, then Minister of Planning, and Attorney General Dr. Mohamed Munawwar, had secretly met with the MDP group and agreed to provide support to the petition in cabinet and in Parliament. As the nascent MDP print media reported at the time, Zaki had in fact vowed to resign from his cabinet post if the party was not registered and had then reneged on his agreement. Zaki later went on to be installed by Nasheed as the interim President of the MDP, a post he held for over two years without election.

Since Nasheed swore in as President on 11 November 2008, November 3rd has not been marked by the Maldivian Government. On the contrary, it made concerted efforts to wipe-out the massacre from Maldivian minds by providing various spin. Zaki, Ameen Faisal and Faruhath Shaheer, three men deeply involved in the coup, together with Mohamed Aslam (Nasheed's Housing Minister) led the attempted whitewash. Zaki attempted to justify the coup, with various media interviews, while Ameen and Shaheer attempted to provide false information on the events. 

His cousin Kerafa Naseem (son of Nasheed's grandfather's brother Kerafa Mohamed Kaleyfaanu) was also involved in an attempted military coup in 1980. He hired nine British Special Air Services (SAS) Commandos to kill then President Gayoom. The team arrived in Maldives, smuggling in their light arms under the guise of diving equipments. However, they did not attempt to discharge their mercenary contract upon finding out that the Maldivian Government had been tipped off about the planned assassination. In the inquiry, they reported the individuals involved leading to the arrest of Naseem and his partners in the coup attempt. Naseem was convicted and exiled.

Naseem too was pardoned by Gayoom and served in senior posts in the Gayoom administration, including that of Director of Foreign Investments at which post he is alleged to have engaged in large scale corruption and graft. Kerafa Ahmed Naseem's family background too is well documented fraud, corruption and attempted political assassinations, with most damning being where his father Kerafa Mohamed Kaleyfaanu robbed his brother Nakhudha Hassan Kaleyfaanu's wealth upon his death.

In October 2011, State Bank of India filed several cases agains Naseem and his family, for non payment of a large number of loans, totalling over Mrf 27 million. The case was filed against Naseem and other heirs of his mother Mariyam Ismail: Naseema Mohamed, Saleema Mohamed, Waseema Mohamed, Asima Mohamed, and Umaima Mohamed. The case was also filed against other guarantors: Ali Saleem of Henveiru Hikifinifenmage; Abdul Aziz of Maafannu Athassaagiri; and Mohamed Shiyam of Henveiru Maabadeyri Aage.

Perhaps one of the most accurate pictures of Nasheed's particular brand of "political activism" is best seen in the events of February 8th as Nasheed led rampaging mobs in an attempt to wrest the Presidency back, within 48 hours of his resignation from office.

The next article will look at the links between Nasheed's Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and other other coup leaders and Nasheed.

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