Maldives police arrest three linked to Lankan sniper

0_1446460060edd_newsThree people have been arrested over a recent assassination plot on the president that involved a sniper brought into Maldives from Sri Lanka, police announced Sunday, according to Haveeru Online.

A police spokesperson said the three were take into custody on December 17. They have been remanded for 15 days, he added.

Confirming the arrest of the Sri Lankan sniper for the first time, police said in a statement early last month that the 27-year-old man was arrested on October 24. He has been remanded by the Criminal Court.

Reports of the Sri Lankan sniper’s arrest came a day after Maldivian security forces confiscated assault rifles and hand guns in what has been the biggest weapons bust in the country’s history. The weapons had been seized from Hibilhadhoo island in Baa Atoll being developed as a resort.

The army had confirmed that two assault rifles found in the weapons bust belonged to the state armoury.

The items showcased during a press conference included several hand guns, a T56 assault rifle and a MP5 sub-machine gun. In addition, a large quantity of bomb making material were also displayed at the press briefing.

Maldives declared a month-long state of emergency last month after the discovery of a bomb near the presidential palace. The state of emergency was, however, later cut short after a week.

Maldives military had confirmed that the suspected device found in a vehicle parked near the presidential residence of Muliaage in capital Male was an improvised explosive device which had been subsequently been diffused.

The discovery of the IED came just over a month after an explosion aboard the presidential speedboat carrying President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom now confirmed as an attempt to kill the president.

President Yameen was unhurt but his spouse and two others were hurt in the explosion.

The primary suspect in the blast appears to be former Vice President Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor who was arrested on October 24 as soon as he arrived from an official trip to China.

He is accused of high treason, a charge he denies.

The Sri Lankan sniper’s arrest affected the relations between the Maldives and Sri Lanka, which accused the Maldives of using historically warm bilateral ties to crackdown on Maldivian political and social media activists.

In a statement, Sri Lanka’s external affairs ministry had said Sri Lanka is deeply concerned about recent developments in the Maldives and events that have impacted on Sri Lanka, including the arrest of two Sri Lankan nationals in the Maldives and the questionable removal of a Maldivian social media activist who was in possession of a valid Sri Lankan visa. It is deeply disturbing that Sri Lanka, a country which has always maintained the closest friendly relations with the Maldives, is being used to initiate questionable action against political and social media activists, it added.

The condemnation by Sri Lanka came a day after it summoned the Maldives top representative in the country over the arrest and subsequent repatriation of a suspect wanted in connection to the recent blast on the presidential speedboat.

Ahmed Ashraf, known by his social media moniker of Shumba Gong, is a self-declared supporter of the embattled former vice president Adheeb.

Sri Lankan authorities arrested him on November 1 on the request of their Maldivian counterparts.

Ashraf was brought to Male the following morning. He was taken to the police detention centre in the island of Dhoonidhoo in Kaafu Atoll.