By Lt. Col. Hassan Amir *
An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack targeted against the Speaker of the People’s Majlis (Parliament), former President Mohamed Nasheed was conducted on the evening of 6 May 2021 in the capital city, Male.’ The incident occurred at approximately 20:27 hrs, near his private residence as President Nasheed was about to enter his vehicle, en-route to a private event.
As President Nasheed and his Personal Security Officer (PSO) and security team walked towards the car, the IED, which had been placed under the seat of a motorcycle parked on the side of the narrow lane exploded. The homemade IED had been packed with ball bearings to amplify the damage. The device had been remote detonated and had created a loud blast and smoke. Based on the information available now, including the placement of the IED on the narrow lane and its command activation, it is highly likely that this attack was a targeted assassination attempt.
Within two to three minutes of the incident, President Nasheed was evacuated to a nearby hospital by members of his security detail. President Nasheed received serious injuries, and following several surgeries, his condition is now stable. Members of the security detail also received minor injuries and have been treated and discharged.
The incident occurred near the middle of the densely populated capital city. Within minutes, Marines from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) cordoned the area, and an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team sanitized the area and checked for further threats. Maldives Police Service (MPS) is currently conducting their forensic and criminal investigations. Foreign partners such as the Australian Federal Police and the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are assisting in the investigation. Several other countries and international agencies have also offered their assistance and expertise in the investigations.
President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in a late evening address to the nation condemned the terrorist incident, which he described as an attack on both the Maldivian democracy and the economy. The economy of Maldives, which is predominantly on tourism, had taken a significant hit due to the Covid-19 lockdown and travel restrictions. In recent month, the government has been easing the restrictions and allowing more tourists into the country in a bid to revive the economy, though recent surges on Covid-19 numbers point to a less than desirable recovery effort.
Following the attack on President Nasheed, messages of goodwill and sympathy have been expressed by leaders from around the world. He is widely recognized as a champion of democracy and is renowned for his advocacy on environmental protection and conservation. President Nasheed is also an outspoken critic of violent extremist Islamic ideologies. He has come under increased criticism from more hard-lined religious scholars, and there have been public threats of violent attacks made on social media platforms. Based on these threats, arrangements for President Nasheed’s security had been heightened in recent months. Both MNDF and MPS inform that there was no specific intelligence prior to this attack.
It must be noted that, as of now, the attack has not been attributed to any actor or entity, and no motive for the attack has been identified. The government of Maldives has expressed its full commitment to a swift and thorough investigation of the incident, and we are likely to have more information about the case in the coming days. As of now, there is no indication of further attacks and the situation remains calm.
*Lt. Col. Hassan Amir is the Principal Director for Plans, Policy and Resource Management at the Integrated Headquarters, MNDF. The information contained in the article is available on open source. The opinions expressed are of the author and does not reflect MNDF, Government of Maldives policy, the official position of the DKI APCSS or the United States Government.