Tuesday, October 2, 2007

FBI joins Male blast probe

US investigators arrived in the Maldives Monday to probe a bomb attack against tourists, as authorities prepared to fly a honeymooning British couple wounded in the blast home, officials said.

Maldivian authorities said two Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents were helping local investigators question 10 people, including two Bangladesh nationals, following Saturday’s attack. The US embassy in Sri Lanka, which is also accredited to the neighbouring Maldives, said it condemned “without reservation this senseless act of violence.”

The blast at Sultan Park, a favourite stop for foreigners and locals visiting the capital island Male, wounded two Britons, two Japanese and eight Chinese. Maldivian officials said arrangements were being made to fly the 32-year-old British newlyweds, who suffered extensive burns, to Britain for advanced treatment, possibly on Tuesday.

Police were questioning those arrested over the attack, which has undermined the country’s image as one of South Asia’s safest holiday destinations. “The 10 (arrested) include two Bangladesh nationals,” tourism minister Mahamood Shougee told AFP by telephone.

The government has blamed its political rivals. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom described it as the first terrorist attack in the archipelago. It was the heaviest number of casualties from violence in the low-lying atoll since anti-Gayoom riots left two dead in September 2003. No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack which Gayoom, who has ruled since 1978 and is Asia’s longest serving leader, blamed on “very selfish and irresponsible... people who for political reasons have been calling for the boycott of the Maldives on the tourism front.”

The pro-dissident Friends of Maldives, which urged a boycott of Maldivian resorts closely associated with members of Gayoom’s regime, denied any involvement in the bombing. “Friends of Maldives (FOM) are surprised by the ridiculous statements from President Gayoom ... that the FOM are in some way behind the Male bombing,” the group said in a statement.

The British-based FOM was set up in December 2003, two months after pro-democracy riots in Male, and supports human rights activists and campaigns against alleged abuses in the nation of 330,000 Muslims. Officials said the two Japanese and eight Chinese nationals who were hurt in the blast have been discharged from hospital. afp

Source: Daily Times

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