A Maldivian social media celebrity loyal to detained Vice President Ahmed Adeeb has been arrested in Sri Lanka on suspicion of links to a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.
The police have confirmed Ahmed Ashraf’s arrest. The 18-year-old is known as Shumba Gong on Twitter.
At 4:30pm, Ashraf tweeted that he was in danger and that “some people smashed my doors trying to come in.”
He is among eight men the security forces have declared a hunt for. All eight are Adeeb’s associates. The vice president is the main suspect in the blast and is in police custody now.
Since Adeeb’s arrest, Ashraf has become increasingly critical of Yameen’s administration. Today, he implicated the president in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in 2012.
Before supporting Adeeb, Ashraf was a vocal supporter of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.
Home Minister Umar Naseer today called on the families of the eight to ask them to come back to the Maldives. “If not, we will issue a red notice for these people through Interpol. These men are involved in a terrorist attack and they are in hiding.”
Naseer declined to reveal how the eight were linked to the blast.
The others are Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ the owner of an island police had seized weapons from, Ahmed Ishfah Ali, a musician, Mohamed Hussain ‘Oittey,’ an ex footballer, Mohamed Wisham, the owner of newspaper Vaguthu, Ahmed Fathih, a former police officer, Hussain Sinan, a social media activist and Mohamed Aseel Ahmed, the deputy managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Latheef’s lawyer Husnu Suood told the press today that the only reason his client is being associated with the weapons cache is his friendship with Adeeb.
Latheef’s residence in Malé, Maafannu Cessna, was raided on the day of Adeeb’s arrest by armed soldiers and policemen.
Suood meanwhile noted that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has acknowledged that a rifle and a submachine gun from the weapons haul had gone missing from the state armoury.
“So Mohamed Allam Latheef says he could not have had access to such weapons,” he said.
Suood said Latheef does not have a criminal record and had never been detained or questioned by the police. He is willing to cooperate with the police investigation and says “he has nothing to hide,” the former attorney general added.
Abdulla Ziyath, a close associate of the vice president and the managing director of the MMPRC, was also arrested a day before Adeeb. He is charged with corruption.
The police are investigating the state owned tourism promotion company’s illegal import of fireworks as well as alleged corruption in leasing islands for resort development.
A total of seven, including Adeeb, are in custody over the blast.
This includes Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to Adeeb, who was arrested in Malaysia last week and deported to the Maldives last Friday. His detention, on a charge of threatening the president, has now been extended by 15 days.
Three soldiers who are all explosives experts are also among the seven in detention.
In a public address last week, President Yameen said the fireworks shipment was rushed through customs and suggested that gunpowder from the fireworks could have been used to make a bomb.