Maldives police say bomb blast targeting Nasheed ‘act of terror’

No arrests so far but police say they are seeking ‘four persons of interest’ who were noticed ‘due to suspicious behaviour at the crime scene’.

The explosion was heard across Male, residents said [Mohamed Sharuhaan/AP Photo]

Male, Maldives – Police in the Maldives have said an explosion that left Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s former president and current speaker of parliament, in critical condition was a “deliberate act of terror”.

The 53-year-old leader of the ruling party was rushed to hospital in the capital, Male, after a device attached to a motorbike exploded at approximately 8:30pm local time on Thursday. He remains in intensive care after undergoing “a successful final, critical, life-saving procedure”, ADK Hospital said on Friday.

Nasheed required multiple surgeries over a 16-hour period to remove shrapnel and treat life-threatening injuries to the head, chest, abdomen and chest, the hospital tweeted as the police briefed reporters on Friday afternoon.

Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed said there have been no arrests, but authorities are trying to identify “four persons of interest” who were “noticed due to suspicious behaviour at the crime scene”.

“The country’s security services, including the Maldives National Defence Force, and the Maldives Police Service, are currently taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of citizens and are enhancing protective measures in the Male region,” he added.

Preliminary findings suggested the bomb was not made with “military-grade explosives”, said Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Riyaz, adding that no links have been established with foreign “terrorist” organisations.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing which took place as Nasheed was about to enter his car on the main thoroughfare that bisects the densely packed city.

Three of Nasheed’s military bodyguards along with two bystanders – a 41-year-old Maldivian man and 70-year-old British man – also sustained minor wounds, said Hameed, who appealed for information from the public and assured the anonymity of callers to a designated hotline.

Mohamed Nasheed in 2008 became the Maldives’ first democratically elected president [Janek Skarzynski/AFP]

Local media photographed multiple wounds on one of the bodyguards after shrapnel was removed from his hands and feet.

In a televised address, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih described the incident as “an attack on the Maldives’ democracy and economy” and assured a “swift and thorough investigation”.

Two experts from the Australian federal police are due to arrive on Saturday morning to help with the investigation while two British experts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime currently based in the Maldives are also working with the investigation team, Hameed said.

An inquiry into the failure of police intelligence to learn of the imminent attack is needed, he conceded, as reporters asked about calls for his resignation.

Source: Al Jazeera