Multinational experts to handle Maldives boat blast probe

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 2:49 PM
Multinational experts to handle Maldives boat blast probe

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A minister from the Maldives said investigations into Monday's blast on President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's speedboat will soon be taken over by multinational experts.

Cabinet Minister Mohamed Shareef said in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo that a team of Saudi Arabian investigators and an expert from the United States are already in the Maldives, while more forensic experts from the Western Australian police as well as from India and Sri Lanka would join the team Tuesday.

"The investigation has now taken a more international feel to it ... because we want to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible," Shareef said.

He said officials at present are looking at mechanical failure as a possible cause for the blast but the possibility of an attempt on Gayoom's life has not been discarded.

Boating accidents and fires are common in the Indian Ocean archipelago state.

The blast occurred Monday morning when the boat carrying Gayoom and his wife back from Saudi Arabia after performing hajj reached the main jetty in the capital of Male.

Gayoom escaped unhurt from the blast. His wife Fathimath Ibrahim, and an aide suffered minor injuries, while a bodyguard sustained more serious injuries, Shareef said.

Video footages of the blast showed screaming passengers exiting the boat with Gayoom bending down to help his wife who is lying on the floor.

The Maldives, known for its luxurious island resorts, has been rocked by political infighting and disputed elections in recent years, but serious political violence is rare.

The Sunni Muslim country however has been struggling in recent years to keep its citizens from traveling abroad to join Islamist groups fighting in foreign civil wars.

Shareef said even though the government is concerned that the fighters may return one day, there is no evidence so far to suggest that Gayoom had been targeted.

Gayoom was discharged from hospital in the afternoon after being monitored for several hours, while his wife remained hospitalized with a back injury.

The country's international airport is on a separate island and a short boat trip is needed to reach the capital island.