Maldives police have arrested Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on suspicion of links to a blast on the presidential boat last month that President Yameen Abdul Gayoom escaped unharmed.
Police spokesman Ismail Ali said Adeeb was arrested on Saturday at the airport when he returned from an official visit to China. He said Adeeb has been taken to a detention centre on an island.
Daniel Bosley, a Reuters journalist reporting from the Maldives’ capital Male, told Al Jazeera that it was described as the most anticipated arrival in the country’s history because there was a lot of suspicion and rumours during Adeeb’s week-long visit to China that he would be arrested.
The September 28 explosion took place on board the speedboat when Gayoom and his wife were returning to the capital from the airport after a Hajj journey to Saudi Arabia. The airport of the archipelago state is on a separate island.
Gayoom escaped unhurt, but his wife, an aide, and a bodyguard were injured.
Authorities said initially the blast could have been a result of a mechanical failure.
But they announced later the blast was an attempt to assassinate Gayoom and launched a criminal investigation. The device was placed under the seat usually occupied by the president, who escaped unhurt because he was not sitting there, the government said.
Adeeb has denied that he was linked to the explosion, the AP news agency reported.
Adeeb was a staunch Gayoom loyalist and became the vice president in July at the age of 33. Gayoom was instrumental in promoting Adeeb from tourism minister after the president got his lawmakers in parliament to impeach the previous vice president, Mohamed Jameel.
Lawmakers also lowered the minimum age for president or vice president from 35 to 30 to enable Adeeb to take the position.
Weeks after the blast, however, it was apparent that Gayoom suspected his vice president was involved, orchestrating a series of raids on homes and businesses of Adeeb’s associates.
Gayoom also sacked his defence minister and the police commissioner after the blast.
“At the moment, the country is without a defence minister or chief of police, and now it seems [it will lose] its vice president because there has been a huge reshuffle after the explosion,” Bosley added.