Maldives President sacks defence chief over boat blast

COLOMBO • Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has sacked his defence minister after a security lapse led to an alleged attempt to assassinate him, his spokesman said.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali announced the sacking of Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel in a tweet yesterday, but gave no further details.

"The President has dismissed Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel," the spokesman tweeted in the Maldivian language, Dhivehi.

The government has not yet announced his replacement.

Mr Jaleel was given the job in January soon after the sacking of his predecessor Mohamed Nazim, who has since been tried and convicted of arms smuggling and jailed.

Mr Jaleel's sacking followed a reshuffle of key security officials in the wake of the Sept 28 blast on Mr Yameen's boat, as he was about to disembark at the capital island of Male.

He had landed at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Hulhule from Saudi Arabia after completing the haj pilgrimage, and was on his way to Male to be greeted by government officials and journalists when the explosion occurred.

The Maldivian leader was unhurt in the blast but his wife and two others suffered minor injuries.

The First Lady fell unconscious when the blast ripped through part of the yacht. She was rushed to hospital, with injuries on her back.

Last week, a minister said the incident was "likely to have been an attempt on the President's life".

The Maldivian authorities have arrested two security personnel who had access to Mr Yameen's boat, but have yet to reveal what caused the blast.

Investigators from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, India and Sri Lanka, who arrived in the Maldives hours after the blast, have revealed that they have strong evidence to believe the explosion was likely pre-planned and an attempt on the life of Mr Yameen.

The National Inquiry Commission, set up in connection with the incident, released camera footage taken by journalists.

In July, Mr Yameen secured parliamentary backing to impeach another former ally, Vice-President Mohamed Jameel.

Mr Yameen faces international criticism for jailing his opponents, including opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Maldives President sacks defence chief over boat blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe