Maldivian leader Mohamed Nasheed was on Thursday flown to Germany for treatment, a week after surviving an assassination attempt in capital Male that left him critically injured.
Following the May 6 “terror attack”, as Maldives police described the bomb explosion, doctors in a Male hospital performed complex surgeries on the Maldives Parliamentary Speaker and former President, to remove shrapnel from his liver, lungs and abdomen.
He was discharged from hospital on Thursday, and medically evacuated to Germany with high security, local media reported. In the first tweet from his account since the explosion, Mr. Nasheed said in the local Dhivehi language: “A special thanks to the health sector of the Maldives. By the grace of Allah, I will stay the course to deliver good governance that you all seek. Eid Mubarak to everyone!”
Linking the blast to religious extremists, the police arrested three persons allegedly involved in the “deliberate act of terror”. The Maldives’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security Services is probing the security breach that led to the attack on the former President.
The explosion targeting the former President, which made international headlines, has turned the spotlight back on religious extremism in the Maldives, a growing concern especially amid the return, over the last few years, of dozens of Islamist radicals recruited as IS fighters in Syria and Iraq.
In a statement condemning the attempted assassination, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, said the incident evoked “popular unresolved murders and disappearances in past linked to extremist groups”, such as the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017, and MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012, and the 2014 disappearance [subsequently declared murder] of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. The network urged President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government to probe the incidents and bring perpetrators to justice.
Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who formerly served as Foreign Minister of the Maldives, said it is important to “carefully conceptualise” the May 6 attack.
“It is a targeted attempt to assassinate former President Nasheed, an act of political violence for which no one has claimed responsibility to date. It is also a terrorist attack because it is aimed at eliminating former President Nasheed for his political views and activities— which primarily include the promotion of a secular democracy and combatting corruption, as Speaker of the Parliament and leader of the MDP,” he told The Hindu. In his view, the attack sends a “chilling message” to those who stand up to religious extremists and demand an end to impunity and corruption.
The timing of the attack, Mr. Shaeed said — a Thursday night in the last third of Ramadan – “strongly suggests that this was the handiwork of religious extremists”. However, it is too early to foreclose other possibilities or connections, he noted. “Especially since there is a vortex of violence implicating corrupt politicians, religious fanatics and criminal gangs that carry out targeted attacks on individuals who stand in their way,” he said, adding: “What this assassination attempt highlights is not just widespread religious extremism that is suffocating society, but also endemic impunity and corruption that have rendered the state incapable of protecting people from these vicious elements, even when it comes to someone as high profile as former President Nasheed.”
Urging President Solih to lead broad-based push back against corruption, impunity and religious extremism, Mr. Shaheed cautioned that the inability to dismantle these structures would make the Maldives “even more vulnerable” to political violence, rendering the country “ungovernable”.