Police in the Maldives arrested vice president Ahmed Adeeb on Saturday in connection with an explosion aboard the president’s boat last month that authorities have said was an assassination attempt.
Adeeb was arrested at the airport when he returned from an official visit to China “on suspicion of involvement in the boat blast,” police spokesperson Ismail Ali told The Associated Press. He said Adeeb had been taken to a detention center.
Soon after the Sept. 28 blast aboard President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s speedboat, rumors began circulating that Adeeb was behind it, but he has denied that he was involved. If the president dies, is incapacitated or resigns, the vice president succeeds him, according to the Maldives’ constitution.
Three soldiers, including a former member of Adeeb’s security detail and a member of the army’s bomb squad, were also arrested Saturday in connection with the blast, deputy police commissioner Abdullah Nawaz said.
The explosion took place aboard Gayoom’s boat as he and his wife were returning to Male, the Maldives’ capital, from the airport after a hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The South Asian archipelago nation’s airport is on a separate island from the capital.
Gayoom escaped unhurt, but his wife, an aide and a bodyguard were injured in the blast.
Authorities initially said the explosion could have been a result of a mechanical failure. But they announced later that it was an attempt to assassinate Gayoom and launched a criminal investigation.
The device used to set off the explosion had been placed under the seat usually occupied by the president, who escaped unhurt because he was not sitting there, the government has said.
Adeeb was a staunch Gayoom loyalist and became the vice president in July at the age of 33. Gayoom was instrumental in promoting Adeeb from tourism minister after the president got his lawmakers in parliament to impeach the previous vice president, Mohamed Jameel.
Lawmakers also lowered the minimum age for president or vice president from 35 to 30 to enable Adeeb to take the position.
Weeks after the blast, however, it was apparent that Gayoom suspected his vice president was involved, orchestrating a series of raids on homes and businesses of Adeeb’s associates.
Gayoom also sacked his defense minister and the police commissioner after the blast.