October 24, 2015 / 8:24 AM / 2 years ago

Maldives vice president arrested in probe of explosion targeting president

3 Min Read

MALE (Reuters) - Maldives Vice President Ahmed Adheeb was arrested on Saturday in a investigation over a speedboat explosion targeting President Abdulla Yameen, police and government officials said.

Yameen, 59, was unhurt in the Sept. 28 blast as his presidential boat Finifenmaa approached the capital Male while he was returning from Saudi Arabia after the haj pilgrimage, but his wife and two aides were injured.

"We have arrested the vice president in relation to the Finifenmaa incident," a police media official told Reuters. "He is now in police custody in Dhoonidhoo detention center."

Home minister Umar Naseer told Reuters: "He is arrested on the charges of assassination attempt."

Adheeb's arrest comes after defense minister Moosa Ali Jaleel was sacked by Yameen on Oct. 14, amid a shake up in VIP security after the explosion. Two other military officials were also arrested immediately after the incident.

Police said 17 of Adheeb's supporters were arrested on Saturday for "public order offences".

Adheeb was arrested at the airport when he was returning from China after participating in a conference.

Local media had speculated that Adheeb had left the country to live in exile, but the vice president confirmed on Thursday in his Twitter feed that he would return.

Security was beefed up in the capital Male and journalists were not allowed into the airport, eyewitnesses said.

The government initially said the blast on the speedboat could be due to mechanical failure but later called it an attempt on Yameen's life after investigators from the U.S. FBI, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Sri Lanka ruled out mechanical failure as the cause.

A broader crackdown against political dissent belies the popular image of the Maldives, an island chain with a population of 400,000, as a holiday paradise, with radicalized youths enlisting in significant numbers to fight for Islamic State militants in the Middle East.

(This story corrects 6th paragragh to say 17 people arrested, not three MNDF)

Additional reporting by Waheed Mhamed in Male; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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