MALE (Reuters) - The United States, the Commonwealth group of countries and rights groups have called on the Maldives to lift a state of emergency declared this week and end a crackdown on dissidents, as authorities stepped up security in the tropical archipelago.
President Abdulla Yameen declared the state of emergency on Wednesday, citing threats to national security after an explosive device was discovered near his official residence in the capital, Male, as well as stashes of weapons.
The decree, which came two days before a protest planned by the main opposition party, has deepened turmoil engulfing the Indian Ocean island nation following a Sept. 28 blast on Yameen's speedboat, which the government said was an assassination attempt.
The U.S. state department said in a statement issued late on Wednesday it was "deeply concerned" by the state of emergency.
"The United States calls on the government of Maldives to restore immediately full constitutional freedoms to its citizens by terminating the state of emergency, and reiterates its call for an end to politically motivated prosecutions and detentions," it said.
Rights group Amnesty International said the government should not use the order to silence free speech or infringe on other human rights. The Commonwealth also called for the emergency to be lifted.
Security was tightened in Male on Thursday with troops patrolling the streets.
Yameen has moved quickly to crack down on those suspected of disloyalty, with Vice President Ahmed Adeeb detained in connection with the boat explosion and now facing impeachment.
The government quickly concluded that the Sept. 28 blast, in which Yameen escaped unhurt, was an attempt on the president's life.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, asked to examine the scene of the boat blast, said there was "no conclusive evidence" that a bomb had exploded, raising doubts over its cause.
The emergency was declared as the Maldivian Democratic Party planned a protest to demand the release of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, who was jailed in March on terrorism charges in a trial that the international community says was politically motivated.
(Reporting by Dan Bosley in Male and Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Tommy Wilkes, Robert Birsel)