Blast on president’s speedboat an ‘assassination attempt,’ video shows fire inside cabin

Blast on president’s speedboat an ‘assassination attempt,’ video shows fire inside cabin
October 07 02:33 2015

The president’s office spokesman called a sudden press conference at 1am on Wednesday to broadcast a video clip of the explosion on board a speedboat carrying President Abdulla Yameen on September 28.

Hours before the press conference, a cabinet minister, citing the findings of international investigators, told Reuters that the blast had been an assassination attempt.

The brief clip shows footage of ‘Finifenmaa’ entering Malé’s harbour. Just as it was about to dock, a loud blast was heard. Flames could be seen inside the boat for a brief moment.

The boat’s door fell off its hinges spewing out black smoke.

Journalists at the scene had not seen the flames at the time.

Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s spokesman, said that a six-member commission comprising of high-ranking military and police officers, set up by the president last week, was investigating the blast. The presidential commission is an investigative body, and not an advisory committee as announced previously.

Yameen escaped unhurt, but the First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim, a presidential aide and a bodyguard suffered injuries, including burns.

Reading out from a prepared statement, Muaz said: “The commission would like to inform the public that we will do all necessary to find out what caused this incident. As we proceed with our work, we will share any information we can with the public.”

Journalists were not allowed to ask questions.

The government has been tightlipped on the details of the investigation.

Three soldiers were arrested on Monday night.

Speaking to Reuters, minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef said investigators from the US, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Sri Lanka have ruled out mechanical failure. “They are now telling me that they have enough evidence to believe that it is likely to have been an attempt on the president’s life.”

The two soldiers were “in line of command who had access to the vessel,” he added.

Shareef was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror carried a story on Tuesday night citing sources who told the newspaper that an explosive device had been planted under the helmsman’s seat inside the boat’s cabin.

“We believe this is not an assassination attempt, but a mere warning to the President. The final investigation report will be handed to the Sri Lankan government today for the onward transmission to the Maldivian government,” the source was quoted as saying.

Credible sources have identified to The Maldives Independent the three soldiers who were arrested as Ahmed Thiham, Moosa Zameer and Mohamed Jawaz. They both have access to the state armory.

Home Minister Umar Naseer is heading the inquiry commission, local media report. The committee does not include either the head of police or the military.

Meanwhile, Colonel Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz, who heads the Special Protection Group (SPG), tasked with protecting the head of state and other state officials, was transferred to the post of Malé area command earlier this week.

Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s two bodyguards have been suspended indefinitely, according to local media.

The SPG has also been split into two branches, one specially assigned with providing security to the president and the other focusing on providing personal security for other state officials, such as ministers and Supreme Court justices.

Correction: October 17, 2015: This article previously said two soldiers and an immigration official were arrested in connection to the boat blast. This is incorrect. All three arrested over the explosion are MNDF officers. An immigration official was never arrested in this case. 

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