Maldives police say key suspect arrested over attack on former president

Mohamed Nasheed is recovering in a hospital.

The scene of the blast in the Maldives
The scene of the blast in the Maldives

Police in the Maldives said they have arrested a person believed to be the prime suspect over an explosion that critically wounded the country’s former president and was blamed on Muslim extremists.

Police now have in their custody three of the four suspects in connection with Thursday’s blast targeting former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is recovering in a hospital after multiple surgeries.

Police did not give details of the latest suspect or his background but confirmed that they believe he is the person whose picture was released on Saturday as authorities sought public assistance for identification. The other suspect remains at large.

Officials blamed Islamic extremists for the attack.

Prosecutor general Hussain Shameem said on Saturday that investigators still do not know which group was responsible. Two of Mr Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded.

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed
Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed (AP)

A relative tweeted early Sunday that Mr Nasheed had long conversations with some family members.

Hospital officials said Mr Nasheed, 53, remains in an intensive care unit after initial lifesaving surgeries to his head, chest, abdomen and limbs.

They told reporters that shrapnel from the blast damaged his intestines and liver, and that a piece of shrapnel broke his rib and had been less than a centimetre from his heart.

Mr Nasheed is currently the speaker of parliament and has been an outspoken critic of religious extremism in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching and practising other faiths are banned by law.

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

Mr 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.

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