The head of the military’s Special Protection Group (SPG), tasked with protecting the head of state and other officials, has been replaced in the wake of a mysterious blast onboard the president’s speedboat last week.
Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa,’ head of the president’s security detail, has been transferred to the post of Malé area commander and replaced with Colonel Ibrahim Rasheed.
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.
A source within the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed the changes to The Maldives Independent.
MNDF spokesperson Major Adnan Mohamed declined to confirm Fayaz’s transfer and said it was not the military’s policy to comment on “changes to organisational structure.”
But “routine changes are made from time to time,” he added.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali was not responding to calls at the time of publication.
Yameen escaped unharmed after the blast onboard the “Finifenma” speedboat, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim suffered minor bone fractures while a presidential aide and bodyguard also sustained injuries. All three were hospitalised.
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, Muaz said.
The committee does not include either the head of police or the military.
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 explosion just before the speedboat docked at the pier, and saw the door on the speedboat fall off its hinges.
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.
The foreign experts departed earlier this week, but the authorities have not revealed any details of the investigation. It remains unclear whether the blast was an accident or involved foul play.
The government’s silence has fuelled speculation among the public, with suspicion cast on religious extremists and alleged factions within the government.
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.