MALE (Web Desk) – Maldives police Saturday arrested the country’s embattled vice president after alleging him of “high treason” amid mounting speculation over his involvement in a blast on a speedboat carrying the country’s president last month.
Vice President Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor on Friday said he would return to the Maldives on Saturday despite rumours that he had gone into exile.
The Singapore Airlines flight carrying the vice president landed at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) at 11.45am, the Haveeru Online reported.
Meanwhile, his supporters had been asked to gather at the official jetty in capital Male to welcome him, but police had cordoned off the entire area, which is considered a part of the Green Zone.
Some high-profile supporters of the vice president, including former Jumhoory Party (JP) youth wing president Moosa Anwar and former coordinator at the youth ministry Ali ‘Steps Ayya Shahid, were taken into custody for defying orders.
Police officers were seen accompanying the vice president as he exited the plane.
Home minister Umar Naseer, meanwhile, announced on twitter that the vice president had been arrested and taken to the police detention centre in Dhoonidhoo.
“Charges: High Treason,” his second tweet read.
Police, meanwhile, confirmed separately that the vice president was arrested for the investigation into the blast.
“Vice President Ahmed Adheeb has been arrested under a warrant for the investigation into the blast on the presidential speedboat,” the police’s tweet in local Dhivehi language read.
Government officials were noticeably absent from the airport to receive the vice president. No official speedboat was also prepared for the vice president’s expected journey from the airport island of Hulhule to the capital Male.
An official car assigned to the vice president was initially seen outside the official jetty in Male. However, minutes after the plane had landed, the car along with the vice president’s security detail left the area.
Army and police, meanwhile, moved in to lockdown the capital city as the nation braced for turmoil after the arrival and subsequent arrest of Vice President Adheeb.
At a midnight press briefing Friday, police announced its plan to lockdown parts of the capital Male that house prominent landmarks and government offices, including the President’s Office and the headquarters of both the police and the armed forces.
By early morning Saturday, lorries loaded with policemen and soldiers were seen on nearly every street in Male. Unlike previous lockdowns, pedestrians were not even allowed to enter the high security zone, commonly called the Green Zone.
Media, meanwhile, was barred access to the area and were asked to stay back near the central bank building, which is also a part of the high security zone.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture while presidential secretary Fathimath Mohamed Solih and bodyguard Abdu Nasir received minor injuries including burns.
The first lady still remains in hospital.
In the wake of the bomb blast on the presidential speedboat, President Yameen fired his police chiefs Friday evening.
Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed, who departed on Tuesday night to Singapore on medical leave, has been appointed as a state housing minister. His two deputies, Hassan Habib and Mohamed Sodiq have been transferred to the gender ministry and housing ministry respectively.
Assistant police commissioner Ahmed Areef has been assigned temporary charge of the police.
The replacements at the top levels of the police came after the president had last week abruptly visited police headquarters in Male and met with Hussain and other senior officers. Police did not reveal the details of the meeting while a police spokeperson had only said that it was “not an extraordinary meeting”.
The police chief has close ties to Vice President Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor who is also currently in Singapore after inaugurating the Maldives Investment Forum in China. Adheeb who has been linked to the explosion, has refuted allegations that he is the mastermind behind the explosion.
Police and the military have, however, raided homes, offices and property of Adheeb’s close associates following the blast further fuelling rumours that the VP had orchestrated the blast.
The sacking of the police chiefs came just over a week after the president fired his defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel.
The president had also replaced the police intelligence chief, the armoury chief and the head of personal security in the week following the blast.
The MNDF’s Special Protection Group (SPG), which had until recently been tasked with the security of state officials including the president and the vice president, has also been split into two, with a new division created and put in charge of presidential security alone.