• Thursday, Oct 06, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:24 am

Maldives arrests 2 over attack on ex-president

  • Published at 06:53 am May 8th, 2021
Maldivian police officers inspect the area after a blast outside the family home of the speaker of parliament, former President Mohamed Nasheed, in Male, Maldives May 6, 2021 Reuters

The 53-year-old is in intensive care after 16 hours of surgery that removed shrapnel from his lungs, liver, chest, abdomen and limbs

Maldives police have arrested two people over an assassination attempt on former president Mohamed Nasheed who has been taken off life support, officials and relatives said on Saturday.

The Indian Ocean island has called in international help to investigate Thursday's bomb attack that left the democracy pioneer and climate activist needing 16 hours of surgery to remove shrapnel from his lungs, liver, chest, abdomen and limbs.

Police said two people had been arrested but did not give details.

They were looking for four suspects seen in the vicinity of the attack on Thursday night just as Nasheed was about to get in his car.

Australian Federal Police officers and two experts from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime were expected to join the investigation on Saturday.

Police secure a site after a suspected bomb blast injured former Maldives president and current parliament speaker Mohamed Nasheed in Male on May 6, 2021 | AFP

The 53-year-old, who is now the Maldives second most powerful leader as speaker of parliament, spoke with his family to say he was feeling "much better," his sister Nashida Sattar said.

"The doctors are very happy with recovery progress," added his brother Ibrahim Nasheed.

"He is out of life support and breathing on his own. I managed to exchange a few words. He promised to come back stronger and I believe him."

In its first report on the attempted assassination, the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) said a homemade bomb was used.

"The improvised explosive device was triggered using a remote control," an MNDF official told reporters in the capital Male.

The bomb was rigged on a motorcycle parked near Nasheed's car.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih thanked Nasheed's medical team and said he prayed for his "quick recovery and return -- stronger and steadier than ever."

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but officials from Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) alleged political interests may have been involved.

Nasheed had been vocal on the need to bring to justice 72 suspects in a $90 million theft case dating from the tenure of former strongman president Abdulla Yameen.

Nasheed ended decades of one-party rule in the archipelago and became its first democratically elected president in 2008. He was toppled in a military backed coup in 2012.

He is also known internationally as a champion for battling climate change and rising sea levels that he says threaten to submerge the nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands.

Nasheed was barred from contesting a 2018 presidential election because of a terrorism conviction after he was forced out of office.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared the conviction politically motivated.

He returned from exile in Britain, however, and his party won legislative elections in 2019 and he is now parliament speaker.

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