Mohamed Nasheed, the former Maldives president and current speaker of parliament who was wounded in a bomb attack, was in “critical condition” after undergoing multiple surgeries, doctors said.
The 53-year-old had just left his house in the capital, Male, and was about to get into his car late on Thursday when a bomb attached to a motorbike exploded. Residents said the blast was heard across the city.
Nasheed sustained several wounds in the blast and was taken to ADK Hospital where he underwent multiple “successful” surgeries. On Friday afternoon, the hospital said Nasheed had undergone “a successful final, critical, life-saving procedure”.
“Over the course of past 16 hours he had life-saving surgery on injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and limbs. He remains in a critical condition in intensive care,” it wrote on Twitter.
Nasheed’s brother, Nazim Sattar, had tweeted earlier on Friday: “They have finished the surgery and now it’s the long road to recovery.”
According to the hospital, Nasheed was treated by a multi-specialty medical team after he was brought in around 8:30pm on Friday. The need for further surgeries was identified during an assessment of his wounds, it added.
Three of Nasheed’s military bodyguards along with two bystanders – a 41-year-old Maldivian man and 70-year-old British man – also sustained minor injuries, according to police, which called the bomb blast a “deliberate act of terror”.
Police commissioner Mohamed Hameed said there have been no arrests, but authorities are trying to identify “four persons of interest” who were “noticed due to suspicious behaviour at the crime scene”.
No one has claimed responsibility.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday went to the hospital where Nasheed, a close ally, was being treated and called an emergency meeting following the attack.
Solih said on Friday the explosion was “an attack on democracy” and the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy, and announced that Australian federal police investigators will arrive on Saturday to assist an investigation.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) invited to help
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced today that his invited the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to help an investigate into the bomb attack against Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, but unlike in the past Sri Lanka does not appear to have been approached for help.
A team of AFP officers will arrive Male as early as tomorrow morning, Solih announced in a recorded address to the nation.
In addition, two officers of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will also join the probe.
It is not immediately clear whether Male approached Colombo for help, but in Solhi’s address there was no mention of Sri Lanka which had sent the Special Task Force (STF) in 2015 to investigate a blast aboard then president Abdulla Yameen’s yacht.
Sri Lankan investigators were invited in 2015 in addition to US Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI agents and Indian counterparts.
The Sri Lankan team concluded the explosion was caused by high explosive while the FBI ruled out the use of a bomb and instead said the blast was due to a malfunction of the AC system.
Sri Lanka, Maldives’ closest neighbour maintains a strong relationship in many fields, including defence and security cooperation.
Meanwhile, many Maldivian officials and citizens took to social media to condemn the attack and wish Nasheed a speedy recovery.
Neighbouring India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also expressed deep concern at the attack and said Nasheed “will never be intimidated”.
“This is very significant, not just in terms of scale but also in terms of target,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, told reporters.
“The fact that you have a former president who is still a very prominent political figure and a very prominent democratic leader in a region that is now marked by strongmen and hardline nationalists … is quite a big deal,” Kugelman said.
Nasheed in 2008 became the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year rule.
But in 2012, he was forced out of office in a coup. In disputed elections the following year, he was defeated by Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen.
In 2015, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges widely criticised as politically motivated. A year later, he was granted prison leave for medical treatment in London. Nasheed was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2016 and returned to the Maldives after his nominee, Solih, won the 2018 presidential election, dealing a shock defeat to Yameen.
In 2019, he went on to win a parliamentary election and became speaker, the second most powerful position in the country.