A rifle and a submachine gun discovered in a cache of weapons during a raid over an alleged assassination attempt on President Abdulla Yameen are firearms that had gone missing from the state armory, the security forces have revealed.
“Among the weapons discovered today, the AK T56 rifle and the MP5 submachine gun, these two firearms, belong to the state armory,” said Captain Ali Ihusaan, a member of the commission investigating the alleged bomb plot.
Yameen escaped unhurt from the September 28 explosion on his boat, Finifenmaa, but his wife was injured. His deputy Ahmed Adeeb was arrested on suspicion of links to the blast.
The arms cache – which also included hand grenades, bullets, improvised explosive devices – was found 42 meters under water on Friday on the reef of an island called Hibalhidhoo in central Baa Atoll.
The explosives found in the cache also contained a chemical used in explosives called RDX, Ihsan added. Saudi Arabian forensic experts had found traces of RDX on Finifenmaa, he noted.
Hibalhidhoo was leased for resort development to a company called Biznas Maldives Pvt Ltd. The weapons were linked to a Biznas shareholder called Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ said Abdulla Nawaz, the assistant commissioner of police.
Latheef is also a close associate of Adeeb’s, Nawaz added. His house, Cessna in Maafannu ward, was raided on the day of Adeeb’s arrest.
A second company Latheef owns, SOF Pvt Ltd., “received a lot of benefits” from and worked closely with state-owned tourism promotion firm, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Nawaz went on.
MMPRC is under fire after the boat blast inquiry found that it had imported a shipment of fireworks claiming they were children’s toys. Yameen has previously suggested that the fireworks from the shipment could have been used to make the bomb on his boat.
“The MMPRC was functioning under the tourism ministry. Adeeb was the tourism minister earlier, and SOF is a company that has received a lot of benefits from MMPRC. Since Mohamed Allam Latheef is a close associate of Adeeb, and since RDX was found on Finifenmaa, and since we believe RDX is present in the explosives today, we think all of this is closely linked,” Nawaz said.
A total of seven people, including three soldiers, are in custody. Nawaz said that a T-shirt that belongs to one of the soldiers was also found on Hibalhidhoo.
All three of the detained soldiers are explosives experts.
Three other Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) officers are also under administrative detention at the military barracks. This includes Colonel Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz, who heads the state armory, the military unit tasked with providing security to the president and the unit of explosives experts.
Ihusaan said military rules had allowed the officer in charge of the armory to release weapons outside of the established procedures, but he said the military has now put in place new rules to strengthen oversight of the armory.
Assuring the public of a thorough investigation into the loss of weapons from the state armory, Ihusaan said: “We guarantee you that this sort of incident of the weapons armory will not happen again in the future.”
The inquiry into the boat blast has plunged Yameen’s administration into turmoil. It has unearthed corruption in the lease of islands for tourism, and revealed the extent of infighting and deception within Yameen’s cabinet.
Yameen has accused Adeeb of obstructing the inquiry by exerting undue influence over the police force. The defence minister and police chief are among several top government officials who have been dismissed since the blast.
Adeeb has denied any involvement in the blast. He is now facing impeachment.