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Boy Scout saves Maldives President’s life

world Updated: Jan 08, 2008 23:07 IST

A 15-year-old Boy Scout intervened to stop a man from stabbing Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with a kitchen knife on Tuesday, a move the leader's spokesman said saved him from assassination.

Gayoom, who was unharmed in the incident, paid tribute to teenager Mohamed Jaisham, who was wearing the characteristic green Scout uniform with scarf and woggle at the time and foiled the attack by wrestling with the man and grabbing the blade.

The boy’s hand was badly slashed.

"I have been saved thanks to Mohamed Jaisham and Allah," Gayoom said in a national radio address after the incident.

In a twist of fate, Gayoom holds the honorary title of "Chief Scout of the Maldives".

The attack took place on the island of Hoarafushi, which with 3,000 residents is one of the most populated in the northern Maldives, as Gayoom met supporters after the inauguration of a renewable energy project.

"He was shaking hands with supporters, when a young man came and tried to stab him with a large kitchen knife," Presidential spokesman Mohamed Shareef told Reuters by telephone from the president's yacht.

"He was saved by a boy who moved in the way and tried to grab the knife and suffered a serious injury to his hand," he added. "The President was not hurt, but the knife did catch his shirt. It was definitely an attempt on his life."

The attacker, aged in his early 20s, has been arrested and is being interrogated. Shareef said residents on the island described the man as having extreme religious views.

However, he said he suspected the attack was more likely the work of Gayoom's political rivals than Islamist hardliners, and saw no connection with a bomb blast in the capital Male in late September, which raised fears of nascent militancy by the likes of al Qaeda in the traditionally peaceful Islamic archipelago.

"We want to work out if this attack was orchestrated, or if he was working of his own devices," Shareef said. "I think this is more to do with (his political opponents) than anything else."

Gayoom, who has ruled the chain of 1,200 mostly uninhabited islands 500 miles (800 km) off the toe of India for three decades and is Asia's longest-serving ruler, faces the cluster's first ever multi-party elections this year, and is running for re-election.

Political opponents describe 71-year-old Gayoom as a dictator who rules like a sultan of old, and say it is time he handed over the reins of a land best known for luxury honeymoons and world-class scuba diving.