Political circles in the Maldives were abuzz with speculation on Sunday after police raided defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s residence in connection with “terror suspicions”.
The Haveeru news portal, quoting a source, reported that police officers searched Nazim’s apartment around 3.30 am after a criminal court approved an order for the raid under suspicions of “terrorism and harboring weapons and explosives”.
Witnesses told Haveeru Maldives Police Service (MPS) officers left the apartment with a number of documents after about two hours. Reportedly, Nazim was inside the apartment at the time.
Nazim said the police broke his apartment’s entrance during the search. He did not give details about the search. “The police will provide any necessary information,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.
President’s Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz claimed Nazim still had the trust of the government. “The government and the president (have) not taken steps against any cabinet minister,” Muaz told Haveeru.
“We believe the police will enter a government official’s home – or any person’s house – only with legal authority,” he said.
The President’s Office has played down speculation of a rift within the cabinet in recent weeks and Muaz said only police should comment on Nazim’s case.
Police said Nazim was treated “respectfully” during the raid. During a briefing on Sunday afternoon, Superintendent of Police Ahmed Shifan said police had raided two apartments in the building where Nazim lives and confiscated some evidence they “needed for their investigation” from one of the apartments.
During the raid in a building in Galolhu district of the capital Male, police officers found out one of the apartments was Nazim’s private residence. Police officers “extended all respect and courtesy due to Minister Mohamed Nazim while conducting the search”, Shifan said.
“During the operation, police applied necessary force, given circumstances, in entering the apartment,” he added. He did not provide further information about the operation but said the matter was being investigated to a “great extent”.
In February 2012, political unrest in Maldives briefly threatened the country's vital tourism sector, which draws thousands of well-heeled visitors every year, following the ouster of then president Mohamed Nasheed.
The sea-faring nation is important as it has become a new area of competition between India and China.
Its more than 1,000 islands sit astride the world's most important east west shipping channel and its strategic location was appreciated by former colonial master Britain, which ran a military base there until 1976.