The police raided three buildings in Malé at midnight last night amidst an ongoing 30-day nationwide state of emergency declared over fear of imminent attacks.
Citing security threats posed by missing weapons and explosives, President Abdulla Yameen declared the state of emergency on Wednesday, granting police sweeping powers to arrest suspects and carry out raids without warrants.
However, a police spokesperson told The Maldives Independent that last night’s search and seizure operations were authorised by court warrants.
“Police confiscated items as evidence for an ongoing investigation,” he said, declining to reveal further details.
According to local media, the police confiscated a pistol from the Thoathaage house in the Manchangoalhi ward of the capital. However, the suspected weapon reportedly turned out to a toy pistol that shoots plastic beads.
A number of buildings were also raided on Thursday and Friday. In one building, which belongs to the deputy managing director of the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, security forces even dug up floor tiles to look for weapons and gunpowder.
In the early hours of Friday, police raided the privately-owned Sangu TV over a “threatening video message.” Conceding that the court warrant authorising the raid had the wrong address, Assistant Commissioner Abdulla Nawaz later told the press that “it is very clear the police can enter any residence without a court warrant” during the state of emergency.
Meanwhile, in the latest shocking development since a blast on the president’s speedboat on September 28, the police revealed yesterday that a Sri Lankan sniper hired to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen has been in custody since October 24.
Home Minister Umar Naseer told Reuters that the sniper plot was the third assassination attempt after the explosion on the speedboat and the discovery of an improvised explosive device (IED) near the official presidential residence on November 2.
“There’s a clear connection between the three. There could be further attacks planned. We’re verifying the sniper’s background,” Naseer was quoted as saying.
“Though a sniffer rifle hasn’t yet been found, police have recovered a telescope and bullet used in such rifles. It’s now established that the suspect knew that his target was the president. Investigations have confirmed that there was a planned sniper attack on the president.”
Attempts on President’s life: ●28th Sept. Explosion on ‘Finifenmaa’ ●24th Oct. Sniper arrested, ●2nd Nov. IED found near ‘Muleeaage’
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) November 7, 2015
Citing the findings of forensic experts from Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia, the government says a bomb targeting the president caused the September 28 explosion. But the US Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence that the blast was caused by an explosive device.
Impeached Vice President Ahmed Adeeb appears to be the prime suspect in the alleged assassination attempt.
Six soldiers and several others were also arrested on suspicion of links to the “Finifenma” blast. Yameen escaped unhurt. First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim was released from hospital yesterday after receiving treatment for spine injuries.
The police have raided some 20 buildings linked to Adeeb and his associates.
The government also says the security forces believe that weapons are missing from a large arms cache seized from an uninhabited island leased to a businessman linked to Adeeb.
The security forces have “definitive information of plans by some individuals to use these explosives and weapons that would endanger the lives of the citizens of the Maldives and threaten the national security,” reads the state of emergency decree.
The security forces meanwhile say explosives experts defused the IED found near Muleeage last week. In the first 24 hours after the state of emergency was declared, three bomb scares were reported in the capital.