Maldives: Outspoken blogger who challenged radical Islamists killed

Yameen Rasheed

Male, April 24: A liberal blogger who wrote satirical critiques of the Maldivian government and the spread of radical Islam died Sunday after being stabbed in the stairway of his apartment building.

The blogger, Yameen Rasheed, 29, had complained repeatedly to the police about receiving death threats, he said in an interview with The New York Times this year, adding that the police often failed to return his calls or dropped his complaints without investigation.

The police said that Rasheed was found with multiple stab wounds in his apartment building in the capital, Mal, shortly before 3 am. He was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and died soon after.

The Republic of Maldives, a nation of nearly 1,200 islands southwest of India, is best known as a spectacular vacation destination. But the country, with fewer than 400,000 people, has also become a source of recruits for the Islamic State. The government said at least 49 Maldivians had traveled to Syria to fight with the group, also known as ISIS; a 2015 study by an international security firm said the number was about 200.

The population, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has traditionally been liberal in its interpretation of Islam, with women rarely covering their heads. But a more conservative strain of Islam has spread in recent years under the increasing influence of Saudi Arabia, which sends religious leaders to the Maldives and offers scholarships to Maldivian students to study at Saudi universities.

A spokeswoman for the hospital, Zeenath Ali Habeeb, said Mr. Rasheed had been brought in at 3:15 a.m. with multiple stab wounds, having lost a lot of blood. He was unconscious and had a very weak pulse, she said, and he died while being treated.

His father, Hussain Rasheed, told the local news media that his son had been stabbed 16 times in the chest, neck and head.

Mr. Rasheed was best known for satirical Twitter posts and weekly posts on his popular blog, The Daily Panic, which riffed on the week’s headlines, often criticizing the government’s use of religion to appeal to the public.

He was also a coordinator of the Find Moyameehaa campaign, which was started after Mr. Abdulla was abducted almost three years ago.

Last year, Mr. Rasheed wrote on Twitter that he had reported receiving death threats to the police and had not received a response. Mr. Rasheed posted screenshots of the many threats he received on his social media accounts.

“We condemn this action in the harshest terms,” President Abdulla Yameen said in a statement. “All resources of the state will be utilized to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.”

Mr. Yameen said he had ordered a review of the procedures for investigating threats against journalists to make sure they are acted upon “swiftly” and in a “manner that ensures safety for everyone.”

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