Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Air ambulance to evacuate honeymooners

AN air ambulance arrived in the Maldives overnight to evacuate a British honeymoon couple wounded in a weekend bomb attack, a minister said.

The plane, chartered by the Maldivian government, will airlift Christian and Jennifer Donelan, both 32, to Britain, where they will undergo further medical treatment, Tourism Minister Mahamood Shougee said.

"The plane arrived this morning (Tuesday) and the Donelans' medical team will decide if they should fly out later today or on Wednesday," Mr Shougee said by telephone from the Maldivian capital Male.

Doctors in Male said the couple may need skin grafts after they were burnt in Sunday's crude bomb attack. Two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists were also hurt in the blast.

The Donelans, who live in Qatar, married in Italy two weeks ago and were on their honeymoon in the Indian Ocean atoll nation.

Their insurance did not cover acts of terrorism, but the Maldivian government stepped in to pay for the plane as a goodwill gesture, Mr Shougee said.

The bomb, which was packed with nails and detonated by mobile phone, was the first terrorist strike of its kind in the archipelago.

Six Japanese tourists have cancelled their holiday to the atoll nation, while Australia advised citizens to "exercise caution and monitor developments" when travelling to the Maldives.

"We are now collecting information from the resorts so the number (of cancellations) might increase," Maldives Tourism Promotion Board official Mohamed Maleeh Jamaal was quoted as saying by the Haveeru Daily newspaper.

Police have so far arrested 11 people, including two Bangladeshi expatriate workers to whom the mobile phones used in the attack were traced.

Officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) flew into Male yesterday Monday to help the Maldivian authorities in their investigation, the US embassy here said.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz said in Male that some of those detained confessed to having helped in the bombing.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and Riyaz said authorities were looking into the possibility of religious or political motives.

Tourism, a key driver of the Maldivian economy, has helped make the 1192 coral islands one of the richest nations in South Asia with a per-capita income of $US2674 ($2995)


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