Maldives Police Say Key Suspect in Nasheed Attack Arrested

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -
A security camera captures the moment of a blast outside the speaker of parliament and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s home, in Male, Maldives, May 6, 2021 in this still picture taken from a handout video. (COURTESY MV POLICE/Handout via REUTERS)

Maldives police said Sunday they have arrested a person believed to be the prime suspect in an explosion that critically wounded the country’s former president and was blamed on Muslim extremists.

Police now have in their custody three of the four suspects in Thursday’s blast targeting former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is recovering in a hospital after multiple surgeries.

Police did not give details of the latest suspect or his background but in a text message confirmed that they believe he is the person whose pictures were released Saturday as authorities sought public assistance for identification. The remaining suspect remains at large.

Officials blamed Islamic extremists for the attack.

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem told reporters Saturday that investigators still don’t know which group was responsible. Two of Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded.

Hospital officials said Nasheed, 53, remains in an intensive care unit after initial life-saving surgeries to his head, chest, abdomen and limbs.

They told reporters that shrapnel from the blast damaged his intestines and liver, and that a piece of shrapnel broke his rib and had been less than a centimeter (0.4 inches) from his heart.

Nasheed is currently the Speaker of Parliament and has been an outspoken critic of religious extremism in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching and practicing other faiths are banned by law. He has been criticized by religious hard-liners for his closeness to the West and liberal policies.

Officers from the Australian Federal Police were assisting with the investigation, following a request from the Maldives. A British investigator also was to arrive in the Indian Ocean archipelago on Sunday.