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Apr. 24 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police arrested five Maldivian nationals sparking unconfirmed rumours that the suspects were linked to Al-Qaeda, police and media reports said Monday. The five — two women, two children and a man — were taken into custody at the request of the Maldives government and handed over to the Maldivian high commission (embassy) here, police chief Chandra Fernando said.

“We acted on a request by the Maldivian authorities,” Fernando told AFP. “We have no information to suggest that the suspects are Al-Qaeda.”

The Island newspaper said the arrest of the Maldivians at Sri Lanka’s only international airport triggered speculation that the suspects belonged to the Al-Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden.

Maldivian dissidents based in Colombo charged that the Male government is using the Sri Lankan police to crack down against political opponents and journalists.

In December, Sri Lanka’s police raided a Maldivian radio operating in exile in Colombo following an Interpol report that it was involved in gun-running.

Police dropped the case after finding no evidence to support the report originated by the Maldivian police.

– Amal Jayasin