Maldives police Saturday arrested the country’s embattled vice president after alleging him of “high treason” amid mounting speculation over his involvement in a blast on a speedboat carrying the country’s president last month, Haveeru.com reported.
Vice President Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor on Friday said he would return to the Maldives on Saturday despite rumours that he had gone into exile.
The Singapore Airlines flight carrying the vice president landed at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) at 11.45pm. His supporters had been asked to gather at the official jetty in capital Male to welcome him, but police had cordoned off the entire area, which is considered a part of the Green Zone.
Police officers were seen accompanying the vice president as he exited the plane.
Home minister Umar Naseer, meanwhile, announced on twitter that the vice president had been arrested and taken to the police detention centre in Dhoonidhoo.
“Charges: High Treason,” his second tweet read.
Police, meanwhile, confirmed separately that the vice president was arrested for the investigation into the blast.
“Vice President Ahmed Adheeb has been arrested under a warrant for the investigation into the blast on the presidential speedboat,” the police’s tweet in local Dhivehi language read.
Government officials were noticeably absent from the airport to receive the vice president. No official speedboat was also prepared for the vice president’s expected journey from the airport island of Hulhule to the capital Male.
An official car assigned to the vice president was initially seen outside the official jetty in Male. However, minutes after the plane had landed, the car along with the vice president’s security detail left the area.
Army and police, meanwhile, moved in to lockdown the capital city as the nation braced for turmoil after the arrival and subsequent arrest of Vice President Adheeb.
At a midnight press briefing Friday, police announced its plan to lockdown parts of the capital Male that house prominent landmarks and government offices, including the President’s Office and the headquarters of both the police and the armed forces.
By early morning Saturday, lorries loaded with policemen and soldiers were seen on nearly every street in Male. Unlike previous lockdowns, pedestrians were not even allowed to enter the high security zone, commonly called the Green Zone.
Media, meanwhile, was barred access to the area and were asked to stay back near the central bank building, which is also a part of the high security zone.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture while presidential secretary Fathimath Mohamed Solih and bodyguard Abdu Nasir received minor injuries including burns.
The first lady still remains in hospital.
In the wake of the bomb blast on the presidential speedboat, President Yameen fired his police chiefs Friday evening.
Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed, who departed on Tuesday night to Singapore on medical leave, has been appointed as a state housing minister. His two deputies, Hassan Habib and Mohamed Sodiq have been transferred to the gender ministry and housing ministry respectively.
Assistant police commissioner Ahmed Areef has been assigned temporary charge of the police.
The replacements at the top levels of the police came after the president had last week abruptly visited police headquarters in Male and met with Hussain and other senior officers. Police did not reveal the details of the meeting while a police spokeperson had only said that it was “not an extraordinary meeting”.