Monday, November 12, 2007

Maldives seek Interpol help to arrest terror suspects

The Maldives is seeking Interpol's help to arrest 10 of its nationals, wanted in connection with a bomb blast in the capital Male, who have fled to Pakistan, police said.

The calm of the paradise holiday destination was shattered in September when Islamic radicals set off a home-made bomb, wounding 12 foreign tourists.

Police arrested six of 16 Maldivians believed to be linked to the attack, but said another 10 escaped to Pakistan.

"The Attorney General's office has given us the court order and we have now asked Interpol to issue a red notice," Maldives police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP in Colombo by telephone.

A red notice allows an arrest warrant to be circulated worldwide, with the intent that the person will be extradited, according to Interpol's website.

Shiyam did not say what charges the suspects might face.

The September 29 bombing occurred outside Sultan Park in Male, wounding a British honeymoon couple, two Japanese and eight Chinese on a city tour.

The two prime suspects, Abdul Latheef Ibrahim and Ali Shameem, fled the Maldives with the help of an immigration officer who is now in custody, Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdullah Riyaz said.

Police in the Muslim nation said those detained received training in assembling bombs at Pakistani madrassas, or religious schools.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said the blast was the first terrorist attack in the Indian Ocean island chain, and has unveiled tough measures to combat Islamic extremism and to protect its vital upmarket tourism industry.

Gayoom, who has ruled the Maldives with an iron fist since 1978, banned fundamentalists from conducting religious services and foreign clerics from entering the country without permission.

Home to about 300,000 Sunni Muslims, the Maldives is a chain of 1,192 coral islands scattered across 850 kilometres (550 miles).

About 600,000 tourists visit the country each year. Tourism and a successful tuna fishing industry has pushed per capita incomes to nearly 2,700 dollars, making the Maldivians the richest country in South Asia.

Source: AFP

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