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Maldives Declares State of Emergency After Discovery of Alleged Assassination Plot

With tensions already running high in the Indian Ocean island nation, authorities issued the decree after allegedly discovering explosives near the president's home and a central mosque in the capital city this week.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 4 2015, 4:36pm

Photo by EPA

A state of emergency is currently in effect in the Maldives, with the government ordering 30 days of emergency rule starting Wednesday and suspending multiple articles of the constitution in response to an alleged assassination attempt on the island nation's president.

Explosives and a cache of weapons reportedly discovered in the capital Male near President Abdulla Yameen's home and a central mosque this week triggered the declaration, with the announcement posted by the foreign ministry on Twitter citing a national security threat.

"Because these would be a threat to the public and the nation, the National Security Council advised taking immediate steps to protect the people of Maldives," Attorney General Mohamed Anil said in a televised speech.

While authorities say they will not impose a curfew under the order, they told Reuters that they plan to bar the right to public assembly. This move comes just two days before the opposition party is set to hold a protest. Friday's demonstration was planned to put pressure on the government to release former President Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed, who lost the 2013 elections, received a controversial 13-year prison sentence for terrorism in March 2015.

Related: Former Maldives President Manhandled into Court then Denied Bail on 'Terrorism' Offences

This is the first time the government has implemented a state of emergency since 2008 when the country ratified a new constitution. Officials stressed that the order would not affect tourists planning to visit the Maldives, which has become a popular vacation spot and saw more than 1 million travelers visit the country in 2014.

"Please go ahead with your holidays — the Maldives are a peaceful country," Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told Reuters. "There has never been a major incident targeting tourists."

The current tensions were sparked in September when there was an explosion on a boat carrying Yameen and other passengers, just before docking in Male. The president was not injured, but his wife and two aides suffered minor injuries.

The government claims that a bomb caused the boat blast, with Maumoon saying investigators from Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia discovered traces of explosives. An investigation conducted by the American FBI has brought that narrative into question, however, after it failed to find conclusive evidence that a bomb had exploded on board.

Yameen has acted quickly to crack down on those suspected of disloyalty, with Vice President Ahmed Adeeb arrested in connection with the explosion, and several suspects have been deported to the Maldives from Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Adeeb denies any involvement in the blast, which has ratcheted up tension that was already running high after the trial and imprisonment of Nasheed.

A diplomat told Reuters that the European Union was considering issuing a travel advisory as a result of the state of emergency. Meanwhile, before the decree was declared, US Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a resolution with bipartisan support calling for Nasheed's release, along with other political prisoners in the Maldives.