Three soldiers arrested in sign of foul play in boat blast

Three soldiers arrested in sign of foul play in boat blast
October 06 16:40 2015

Three soldiers have been arrested in the ongoing investigation into a mysterious explosion on board the presidential speedboat on September 28. Their arrest is the first sign that the blast may have been a deliberate attack on President Abdulla Yameen’s life.

The Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) Ahmed Thiham and Moosa Zameer, who both have access to the state armory, were arrested last night, according to reliable sources.

A third man named Mohamed Jawaz, who is an explosives expert, was also arrested.

The police and the president’s office declined to comment.

Yameen escaped unharmed, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim suffered minor bone fractures while a presidential aide and bodyguard also sustained injuries.

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

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 yesterday.

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 President Abdulla Yameen and the other focusing on providing personal security for other state officials, such as ministers and Supreme Court justices.

The president on Tuesday formed an advisory committee with three high-ranking police and army officers, including the heads of the military and police intelligence departments, to ensure such incidents do not take place in the future, the president’s office said.

The committee does not include either the head of police or the military.

Forensic experts from the US, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, and Sri Lanka arrived in the Maldives last week to assist the joint investigation launched by the police and military. Parts of the speedboat have also been sent abroad for forensic analysis.

The foreign experts departed earlier this week, but the authorities have not revealed any details of the investigation.

The blast occurred around 8:00am on board the ‘Finifenmaa’ speedboat while President Yameen was returning to Malé after performing the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

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

The Islamic ministry has instructed mosques across the country to recite the qunooth, a prayer made as an invocation when the Muslim community faces calamities or hardship, at Maghrib, Isha, and Fajr prayers.

Additional writing and reporting by Shafaa Hameed. 

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.