A Sri Lankan national that the Maldives government claims had attempted to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen was arrested on a charge of “distributing money to groups and attempting to create unrest,” according to a reliable source.
The 27-year-old man, identified by Sri Lankan media as Lahiru Madhushanka, was detained on October 24; the same day then-Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was arrested from the airport on suspicion of links to an explosion on Yameen’s speedboat.
He was remanded for a second 15-day period yesterday,
The Maldives Independent’s source said the Sri Lankan man’s arrest documents made no mention of an assassination attempt, but instead alleged that he was distributing funds to Malé’s gangs to create unrest on the day of Adeeb’s return to the Maldives.
A second reliable source said that the man is an accountant linked to one of Adeeb’s associates.
Sri Lankan media outlets have said that the man is a dry fish buyer.
The police insisted today that he was arrested for attempting to assassinate the president. The criminal court extended his remand detention for a second 15-day period yesterday.
Meanwhile, popular daily Haveeru, citing an anonymous source, today claimed the man was a “trained sniper shooter.”
But the Colombo-based Daily Mirror, citing the Sri Lankan defence ministry, said the sniper was not attached to the military.
Home Minister Umar Naseer has said 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 told Reuters.
“Though a sniper 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.”
Yameen escaped the blast unhurt, but the incident has plunged Maldives into fresh political turmoil. The expulsion of an 18-year-old Maldivian man from Sri Lanka on the request of the Maldives High Commission has also sparked outrage in Colombo.
Ahmed Ashraf was expelled in violation of local laws, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry has said, and pledged an internal investigation.
According to Sri Lankan media, the Maldivian authorities said Ashraf, known as Shumba Gong on Twitter, was wanted in connection to the explosion, but his lawyer has told The Maldives Independent he was remanded on a charge of issuing death threats.
Maldives High Commissioner Zahiya Zareer today met with Sri Lankan officials to brief them on the arrest of the Sri Lankan national and Ashraf’s expulsion, according to the Maldives foreign ministry.
HC Zaahiya Meets Sri Lanka FS & briefs about the arrest of Sri Lankan national suspected of conspiring to assassinate Maldives President
— MFA-Maldives (@MDVForeign) November 9, 2015
Yameen has now declared an unprecedented state of emergency, suspending basic rights and granting security forces sweeping powers to make arrests and raids.
He cited fear of imminent threats and weapons missing from the state armoury.
Correction: November 9, 2015
This article previously misspelled sniper rifle in a quote given to Reuters by Home Minister Umar Naseer. The mistake was by Reuters, and not Maldives Independent.