Police tightlipped over boat blast probe

Police tightlipped over boat blast probe
October 04 14:47 2015

The authorities remain tightlipped over the investigation of a blast onboard the president’s speedboat on Monday, almost a week after the unexplained explosion.

A police media official told The Maldives Independent that updates could not be revealed at the current stage of the investigation. The police have been taking statements from journalists who witnessed the incident from the Izzudin jetty as well as crew from the ‘Finifenma’ speedboat, the official said.

Agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and forensic experts from Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia were assisting the investigation along with the military. The foreign experts have since left the Maldives.

Parts of the speedboat have also been sent abroad for forensic analysis, the media official said.

The government’s silence has fuelled speculation among the public, with suspicion cast on religious extremists and government officials.

Government officials have also made conflicting statements to the international media. Mohamed Hussain Shareef, presidential affairs minister, told the press in Colombo that the blast was probably caused by a mechanical failure.

“We are looking at an accident rather than sabotage,” he was quoted as saying.

Shareef also dismissed any link between the explosion and the ongoing political crisis triggered by the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defence Mohamed Nazim, and other opposition politicians.

“We have no reason to believe that anyone would want to assassinate the president,” he said.

“Our opposition is vocal but not violent to carry out something like this.”

However, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told the AP that “it is likely that it was a targeted attack against the president”.

An assassination attempt would be unprecedented, Dunya said, but declined to speculate on any connection to local politics or religious extremism.

She added: “There are potentially many sources it could have come from.”

The blast occurred around 8:00am on September 28 while President Abdulla Yameen was returning to Malé after performing the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Journalists awaiting the president at the Izzudin jetty heard a loud blast just before the speedboat docked at the pier, and saw the door on the speedboat fall off its hinges.

Yameen escaped unhurt, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim suffered minor bone fractures while a presidential aide and bodyguard also sustained injuries. All three were hospitalised.

The aide, Fathmath Mohamed Solih, has been released after treatment, but the first lady and the bodyguard remain at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

On Thursday, dozens of government supporters carrying white roses, flower bouquets, and get-well-soon cards visited the first lady at IGMH. The supporters reportedly met the first lady individually.

The first lady is politically active and manages Yameen’s campaign office. Last month, the campaign office organised symposiums in Malé to train ruling party members from across the country for Yameen’s re-election bid in 2018.

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