May 7, 2021 Faith Matters

Blast that hurt former Maldives president ‘act of terrorism’

Police in the Maldives said an explosion that injured former president Mohamed Nasheed was an act of terrorism.

Mr Nasheed, 53, was wounded in the blast Thursday night outside his home and was being treated in a hospital in the capital, Male.

Home minister Imran Abdulla told a local television that the former leader’s injuries are not life-threatening.

Mr Nasheed is the current parliament speaker and was the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean archipelago, in power from 2008 to 2012.

Maldives police did not give details on possible suspects or what type of device was used.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the blast. Photos circulated on social media showed a destroyed motorcycle at the scene.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said in a televised speech that Australian federal police investigators will arrive on Saturday.

The Australian Federal Police said its members will engage with Maldives police and assess the assistance that can be provided to their investigation.

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

The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts but has seen rare violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital wounded 12 foreign tourists.

Violence has been blamed on a rise in religious extremism. The Maldives has one of the highest per capita numbers of militants who fought in Syria and Iraq.

Arrests have been made from time to time.

Maldives authorities announced in January that a group of eight people arrested last November were found to have been planning to attack a school and were in the process of building bombs on board a boat at sea.

Police said they also conducted military training on uninhabited islands and had recruited children.

Mr Nasheed’s presidency ended a 30-year autocratic rule, but his own term was cut short when he resigned amid protests.

He was defeated in the subsequent presidential election and became ineligible to enter the 2018 race because of time served in jail. His party colleague, Mr Solih, won the vote.

Mr Nasheed remained an influential figure and was elected parliament speaker in 2019. He has championed global efforts to fight climate change, particularly rising seas which threaten the low-lying islands of his archipelago nation.

Neighbouring India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar said of Mr Nasheed in a tweet: “Wish him a speedy recovery. Know that he will never be intimidated.”