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Two goldsmiths held following Maldives blast

The Maldivian police have arrested two local goldsmiths following the bomb blast at the Sultan Park, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: Sep 30, 2007 22:27 IST
PK Balachandran

The Maldivian police have arrested two local goldsmiths following the bomb blast at the Sultan Park in Male on Saturday in which 12 foreign tourists were injured, two of them seriously.

The men held were Moosa Fazeel and Amir Abdullah.

At the blast site, investigators had found a six inch long gas cylinder which goldsmiths use. They also found a washing machine timer. It is suspected that the crude, locally made explosive device, had been triggered by a mobile phone.

Police told newsmen that they were confident of finding the perpetrators of the outrage as the place (the entrance to the park) had been under CCTV surveillance.

"Police are going over the footage again and again. There are also a number of witnesses as the blast took place at 2.30 pm when there were a lot of visitors," the Maldivian government spokesman Mohamed Sharif told Hindustan Times over phone from Male.

The Sultan Park is a popular tourist spot as it has, within its premises, the National Museum.

"The police are also in touch with investigating agencies of other countries," Sharif added. Significantly, the blast site is within 50 metres of the National Defence Headquarters.

"Male is calm. But the people are outraged, because Maldivians are a people who take warmly to tourists," Sharif said.

Asked if the hand of Islamic militants or Maldivian dissidents was suspected, he said: " We don't want to indulge in speculation. But we are discounting nothing."

Saturday's blast was the first in the history of this tourist paradise, which is generally reckoned as one of the safer places in the world for tourists.

The Maldives, which is a collection of many small islands, attracts 600,000 tourists a year, twice the size of its population.

However, in 1988, forces opposed to President Mohd.Gayoom, had tried to stage an armed coup with the help of Sri Lankan Tamil militants belonging to the People Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). The planned amphibian assault was thwarted in mid sea by the Indian Navy.

There has never been any radical Islamic movement in the Maldives though it is a Muslim country. But there are anti-Gayoom forces which come under the rubric "Maldivian Democratic Party" (MDP) .They operate from Sri Lanka and other places.

Government spokesman Sharif said that of the 12 injured, eight Chinese and two Japanese were treated at the Government Hospital for minor cuts and bruises and discharged. But the British couple, who had sustained serious burns, would be airlifted out of the country with the help of the British High Commission in Colombo.