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The former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has been injured in a suspected bomb blast in the capital, Male.

The blast happened as he was about to get into a car outside his home on Thursday evening.

Local media reports a home-made explosive device was planted on a motorbike that was parked nearby.

A team from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) force will travel to the Maldives to help in the investigation.

Mr Nasheed, 53, was the first democratically elected president of the Maldives and has been an outspoken critic of hardline Islamists. He won multi-party elections in 2008 but was ousted in a coup four years later.

Mr Nasheed is currently serving as the speaker in parliament, which is the Indian Ocean nation’s second-most powerful position.

President Ibrahim Solih described the explosion as

“an attack on Maldives’ democracy and economy.”

‘Targeted attack’

The explosion happened at 20:39 local time, just before a night-time curfew was due to go into effect in the capital as part of measures to contain coronavirus.

Ali Azim, an MP from the governing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), told the BBC the explosion appeared to be

“a targeted attack against Mr Nasheed”.

However, no-one has claimed the attack and there are no reports of arrests.

The hospital treating Mr Nasheed said he had suffered multiple injuries but was in a stable condition.

Four other people are reported to have been injured, including Mr Nasheed’s bodyguards and bystanders.

In a televised address to the nation, President Solih, said an investigation had been launched, and that members of the AFP would arrive on Saturday to assist local police. It is the second time the Australia authorities have helped the Maldives with an alleged assassination attempt. In 2015, the AFP and FBI joined an investigation into an explosion on then-President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.

Mr Solih said the latest investigation would be

“swift and thorough” and that “the perpetrators would face the full force of the law”.

reminder of challenges ahead

Anbarasan Ethirajan, South Asia Regional Editor, BBC World Service News

From outside, the Maldives is a dream tourist destination with turquoise water and sandy beaches. But most tourists do not go beyond their holiday resorts.

This Indian Ocean archipelago is an Islamic country where its residents follow Islamic traditions and beliefs. In some of the distant islands and atolls, some are conservative or even radicalised. The authorities blame the foreign hard-line preachers for the radicalisation.

The Maldivian security agencies say dozens of jihadists from the Maldives went to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State group and other extremist organisations. After the war ended in Syria, some of them returned.

When I met Mr Nasheed in Male in 2019, he said the government was looking at this issue seriously.

Mr Nasheed is not only a pro-democracy icon, but also someone who doesn’t hesitate to talk against religious radicals. Security agencies estimate that hundreds of youths have been radicalised and it’s a big concern for them.

With so many foreigners visiting the country – bringing much-needed tourism revenue – they do not want any jihadist attacks attracting international headlines. But the attack on Mr Nasheed is a clear reminder of the challenges the Maldivian authorities face.IMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERSimage captionMr Nasheed, 53, is currently serving as the speaker in parliament

Mr Nasheed was barred from contesting the 2018 presidential elections after he was convicted of criminal charges.

However, he returned to the country from self-imposed exile after his party won the 2018 presidential elections and then entered parliament.

The Maldives is a largely Sunni Muslim nation made up of 1,192 individual islands south-west of the Indian sub-continent. It is renowned as a holiday destination for its beaches and luxury resorts.

Its political history has been unsettled since the electoral defeat of long-serving President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008 ended decades of autocratic rule.

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