Male, (AFP): Former Maldives president and current parliamentary speaker Mohamed Nasheed underwent more surgery Friday following an assassination attempt but his condition was described as stable.
The Indian Ocean archipelago’s first democratically elected leader was seriously injured when a device attached to a motorcycle was detonated as he got into a car in the capital late Thursday, an official said.
“Nasheed escaped an assassination attempt,” a Maldivian government official told AFP. “He is injured, but his condition is stable.” The private ADK hospital said the 53-year-old required further surgery following a thorough assessment of his condition.
The hospital did not give further details, but a family member said shrapnel was removed from a lung and his liver.
“We are hopeful of a full recovery,” he said, adding that Nasheed was responsive and spoke with doctors as he was admitted. One of his bodyguards was also taken to hospital.
Officials said the motorcycle with the device attached was parked down the narrow lane leading to Nasheed’s home.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a close ally of Nasheed, said an investigation was under way as officials rushed to denounce the targeted attack on the country’s second most powerful figure.
“Cowardly attacks like these have no place in our society,” Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said in a tweet.
The Indian Ocean nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is best known for its luxury holiday resorts popular with honeymooners, but it suffers from regular political turmoil.
There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s bomb attack, but officials close to Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said they suspected vested political interests opposed to his anti-corruption drive.
Nasheed has vowed to investigate a $90-million theft from the state’s tourism promotion authority during the tenure of former president Abdulla Yameen.
“There are some dormant Islamists who could have collaborated with political elements threatened by Nasheed’s anti-corruption drive,” an MDP source told AFP.
The government has cracked down on extremism and foreign preachers are banned. Violent attacks have been rare. However, a dozen foreign tourists were wounded by a bomb blast in Male in 2007.
The Islamic State claimed a boat arson attack last year but there is little evidence the group has a presence in the archipelago.
Former president Abdulla Yameen claimed he survived an assassination attempt following a blast aboard his yacht in September 2015. He was unhurt.
Nasheed rose to become the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader in 2008 in the country’s first multi-party elections after 30 years of autocratic rule.
But the pro-democracy pioneer is maybe best known internationally for holding a 2009 underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of global warming, signing documents as officials wore scuba gear against a backdrop of coral reefs.
“What we are trying to make people realise is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world,” he said at the time.
He was toppled in a military-backed coup in February 2012, convicted on a charge of terrorism and jailed for 13 years.
He left the country on prison leave for medical treatment and sought refuge in Britain. He returned after his nominee Solih won the presidency in 2018.
In the parliamentary elections in April 2019, he led his party to a landslide and became speaker.
He is a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience after being banished or imprisoned during the tenure of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Messages of support for Nasheed poured in on Friday from neighbouring India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as Western nations, which have strongly backed his pro-democracy movement and environmental activism.