Key suspect in Nasheed attack arrested: Maldives police

Three of the four suspects allegedly behind the explosion that critically wounded the former president are in custody.

Police in the Maldives did not give details on the latest suspect arrested [AFP]

Maldives police said on Sunday they 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 recovering in hospital after multiple surgeries.

Police did not give details on the latest 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. The fourth suspect remains at large.

Officials blamed religious “extremists” for the attack, although investigators still do not know which group was responsible. Two of Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded.

Life-saving surgery

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

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

Shrapnel from the blast damaged Nasheed’s intestines and liver, and a piece of shrapnel broke his rib and had been less than a centimeter (0.4 inches) from his heart, hospital officials said.

Officers from the Australian Federal Police were assisting with the investigation, following a request from the Maldives. A British investigator was also set to arrive in the Indian Ocean archipelago on Sunday.

Nasheed was the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, serving from 2008 to 2012, when he resigned amid protests. 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 archipelago nation’s low-lying islands.

The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts but has experienced occasional violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital 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 ISIL (ISIS) 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.

Source: AP