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Maldives: Ex-president Mohamed Nasheed critical after 'terror attack' as police try to identify four possible suspects

·2-min read

The speaker of the Maldives parliament, who is also the former president, is in a critical condition in hospital following an explosion which is being treated as a terror attack.

Mohamed Nasheed, 53, is in intensive care after he was badly injured in the blast outside his home in the capital Male on Thursday night as he was about to get into his car.

Two of his bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a Briton, were also wounded in the explosion, said police.

Officers say they are trying to identify four possible suspects but no arrests have been made.

The blast was caused by a device planted on a motorbike parked near Mr Nasheed's vehicle, according to local media.

Police have not detected any military-grade components in the explosives used.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast which has revived security concerns in the Indian Ocean archipelago, that is known for luxury tourist resorts but has experienced occasional violent attacks.

Mr Nasheed, who has undergone surgery on his head, chest, abdomen and limbs, has been an outspoken critic of religious extremism in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching and practising other faiths are banned by law.

The first democratically-elected president of the Maldives has previously warned about militants infiltrating the Islamic country, as violence has been blamed on a rise in religious extremism.

The Maldives has one of the highest per capita numbers of insurgents who fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the so-called Islamic State group.

Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said 450 officers were investigating the latest incident.

"We are treating this as a terrorist attack," he told a news conference, adding the national security threat level had been raised to its highest rating of three.

In January this year, Maldives authorities said eight people arrested in November were found to have been planning to attack a school and were in the process of building bombs in a boat at sea.

In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital wounded 12 foreign tourists.

Mr Nasheed was in office from 2008 to 2012 and got a degree in maritime studies from Liverpool John Moores University in 1989.

His presidency ended 30 years of autocratic rule, but his term was cut short when he resigned amid protests.

He was defeated in the subsequent presidential election and was convicted of terrorism for having arrested a senior judge while president, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Mr Nasheed was allowed to go to the UK for medical treatment and received asylum there in 2016.

His party colleague Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the 2018 presidential election and Mr Nasheed was able to return home.

He has remained an influential figure and was elected parliament speaker in 2019.

He also knows former prime minister David Cameron.

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