Seven arrested after Maldives boat blast probe leads to weapons find

An injured person is transferred after the blast to an accompanying police speedboat on Sept 28, 2015.
An injured person is transferred after the blast to an accompanying police speedboat on Sept 28, 2015.AFP

MALE (REUTERS) - Maldives police arrested seven people after an investigation into a boat explosion that targeted President Abdulla Yameen led to the discovery of weapons hidden on the sea bed, officials said on Saturday.

The weapons, including two hand grenades, a rifle, a pistol, and more than 100 bullets wrapped in carrier bags were found on the sea bed, at a depth of 45m, in the remote Baa Atoll, 130 km north-west to capital Male, officials said.

Ali Ihusaan, a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) official said the investigation into the Sept 28 boat blast had led to the discovery of the weapons, some of which could be used to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

"We found devices and equipment that could be used to make IEDs... that could be set off anywhere and could be detonated remotely without knowing who set it off," Ihusaan told reporters in Male while exhibited the weapons found.

He also said only two of the weapons were owned by MNDF, but declined to comment about the others.

A police official said seven suspects were arrested after the find, which came a day after Malaysia deported a man to the Maldives who was suspected of involvement in the attempted assassination of Yameen last month.

MNDF did not explicitly link the weapons to the Sept 28 blast on the speedboat transporting President Yameen after his return from the Muslim haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Yameen escaped unhurt, but his wife was injured.

Maldives Vice-President Ahmed Adheeb was arrested last week in connection with the explosion. Adheeb had denied the allegations. Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel was sacked in mid-October.

Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon on Tuesday denied that dissident politicians were trying to unseat Yameen and said he was in control.

Yameen, 56, has provoked street protests in Maldives with a crackdown on political dissent, including the arrest of the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail this year on terrorism charges that have caused an international outcry.