Thursday, January 20, 2022

Key suspects in Maldives’ Nasheed bombing arrested

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Maldives police said on Sunday they have arrested a person believed to be the prime suspect in an explosion that critically wounded the country’s former president.

Police said they now have three of four suspects in custody.

Thursday’s blast targeted Mohamed Nasheed, currently the speaker of parliament, who is still recovering in hospital after multiple surgeries, The AP reported.

Two of Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded.

Police did not give details of the suspect or his background, but in a text message confirmed they believe he is the person whose pictures were released on Saturday as authorities sought public assistance identifying him.

Officials blamed religious “extremists” for the attack, although investigators still do not know which group was responsible.

Nasheed has been an outspoken critic of religious hardliners in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching or practising other faiths is banned by law. He has been criticised by religious hardliners for his closeness to the West and his liberal policies.

Hospital officials said Nasheed, 53, remains in intensive care after initial life-saving surgeries to his head, chest, and limbs. A relative tweeted early on Sunday that Nasheed had been able to have conversations with family members.

Flying shrapnel from the blast damaged Nasheed’s intestines and liver, and a piece broke his rib less than a centimetre from his heart, hospital officials said.

Officers from the Australian Federal Police and a British investigator are assisting with the investigation, following a request from the government.

Nasheed was the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, serving from 2008 to 2012. He was defeated in the subsequent presidential election and was ineligible for the 2018 race due to a prison sentence, but has remained an influential political figure.

He has championed global efforts to fight climate change, particularly warning that rising seas caused by global warming threaten the Maldives’ low-lying islands.

The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts but has experienced occasional violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in the capital Malé wounded 12 foreign tourists and was also blamed on religious hardliners.

The Maldives has one of the highest per-capita numbers of fighters who fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the IS group.

Authorities announced in January that eight people arrested in November were found to have been planning to attack a school and were in the process of building bombs in a boat at sea. Police said the suspects conducted military training on uninhabited islands and recruited children.

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