The explosion on the president’s speedboat on September 28 was caused by a bomb targeting President Abdulla Yameen, an inquiry commission revealed today.
Home Minister Umar Naseer, who co-chairs the commission along with the president, told the press that a team of forensic experts from Sri Lanka who investigated the incident have confirmed that the blast was caused by an explosive device.
Forensic teams from the US, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and India flew in within a day of the blast, but have not yet shared their findings with the government. The Sri Lankan team is the first to deliver its forensic analysis report.
Dismissing claims that the blast was a mechanical failure, Naseer said: “The blast is not related to the air-conditioning system in the boat. Our preliminary findings and the findings of the Sri Lankan team are that the blast was caused by a bomb.”
The blast occurred just as the “Finifenma” speedboat was about to dock at the presidential jetty in Malé. Yameen escaped unhurt, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim remains hospitalised with spine injuries. A presidential aide and a bodyguard were also injured.
Abdulla Nawaz, a senior police officer on the inquiry commission, said the Sri Lankan forensic experts detailed how they came to the conclusion that it was a bomb blast.
“However, at this stage of the investigation we cannot reveal more,” he said.
Naseer said the explosion went off underneath Yameen’s preferred seat on the speedboat. Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, who was on the speedboat, told local media last week that the first lady was sitting there when the blast occurred.
“This is the first time an attack was successfully executed targeting the president in the Maldives,” Naseer said.
Three soldiers have been arrested in the ongoing investigation. All three suspects are explosives experts. According to local media, they are accused of tampering with evidence.
Responding to a question by the The Maldives Independent, Nawaz said: “I’m unable to state at the moment if evidence has been tampered with.”
“But if the evidence is under a particular party there are possibilities that they could destroy or tamper with it,” he added.
Suspicion has been cast on Vice President Ahmed Adeeb following police raids on the homes of his close associates and the administrative detention of his former military bodyguard.
A court warrant authorising the raid on the home of Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to Adeeb, was issued in connection to the blast on the speedboat.
On October 14, the police also raided the home of Abdulla Ziyath, a close associate of the vice president and the managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Two days later, the MMPRC office was also raided. Ziyath has been questioned at the police headquarters twice this week.
Several senior government officials seen as loyal to the vice president have also been dismissed. Adeeb’s supporters are clashing acrimoniously with Yameen loyalists on social media.
Asked if the vice president is a suspect, Naseer said: “We do not go after a person, we go after the evidence and that’s exactly what we are doing right now.”
President Yameen formed the inquiry commission a day after the blast with six high-ranking police and military officers. Today was the first time the commission met the press.
Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel was sacked last week in a shakeup of the security services.
The former head of the Maldives National Defence Force’s special protection group, Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz, is also being held in administrative detention. Fayaz was dismissed from his post shortly after the blast.
Naseer meanwhile vowed that the commission will find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“Attempting to kill the president is a huge crime, it’s treason. We will investigate, find out who did it and he will face the strictest punishment.” he said.