Remand of a Sri Lankan sniper brought into Maldives as part of an assassination attempt on the president has been extended by an additional 10 days, Maldives police announced Saturday.
Confirming the arrest of the Sri Lankan sniper for the first time, police said in a statement in November that the 27-year-old man was arrested on October 24. He has been remanded by the Criminal Court.
Some Sri Lankan media outlets have, however, reported that the man was an importer of Maldives dry fish.
In the latest blow to the case, police announced Sunday that three people arrested for allegedly hiring the Sri Lankan sniper have been released. A police spokesperson said the the three men arrested on December 17 were released by the Criminal Court for lack of evidence.
Home minister Umar Naseer told reporters on Thursday that investigators have a very solid case concerning the sniper.
“Either way, it was an assassination attempt on the president,” he said.
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 in November 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.
Following those developments, Sri Lankan authorities began heavily screening the luggage of Maldivians travelling to its capital Colombo. The extra security checks had been conducted as Maldivians were suspected of bringing in goods for trade as baggage without the necessary clearance.
The special security checks came after the murder of a Maldivian in Sri Lanka in November.
Razeen, who was a notorious former gangster, was found dead with stab injuries in an abandoned paddy field near the Tumbovila Bridge in Piliyandala on November 5. Two suspects -- a Maldivian and his Sri Lankan accomplice -- have been taken into custody.
Sri Lankan authorities had said the thousands of Maldivians residing in Sri Lanka would be subject to closer scrutiny following the killing. (Haveeru Online)