Police: IS sympathizers behind attempt on ex-Maldives leader


              FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed takes a seat before delivering a lecture on climate change in New Delhi, India. A local group that sympathizes with the Islamic State group  was behind the assassination attempt on former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed last May and its leader had been arrested in 2017 for suspected bomb making and was let off without explanation, police said. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed takes a seat before delivering a lecture on climate change in New Delhi, India. A local group that sympathizes with the Islamic State group was behind the assassination attempt on former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed last May and its leader had been arrested in 2017 for suspected bomb making and was let off without explanation, police said. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

MALE, Maldives (AP) — A Maldives group that sympathizes with the Islamic State group carried out an assassination attempt in May on former President Mohamed Nasheed, police said.

The suspected ringleader, identified only as Thasleem, was arrested on Saturday in the southern Addu atoll, Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Riaz told reporters.

He said Thasleem was also arrested in 2017 for allegedly making a bomb in an apartment and was prosecuted, but his case did not move forward and he was released the following year without explanation.

Nasheed was injured in a May 6 blast outside his home in the capital, Male. The homemade bomb, planted in a parked motorbike and detonated by remote control, also injured four bystanders, including a British national.

Riaz said Saturday that police have arrested 10 people for alleged involvement in the assassination attempt. He said the suspects spread IS ideologies but that investigators have not found any direct links between the groups.

He said the men had declared that Nasheed no longer believed in Islam and that his “blood should be spilled” because his political actions and speeches did not agree with Islamic values.

Nasheed was considered a moderate leader with close links to the West when he was president of the Sunni Muslim nation between 2008 to 2012. He was an outspoken critic of rising extremism in the Indian Ocean archipelago state known for its high-end island resorts frequented by Western tourists.

Nasheed underwent several lifesaving surgeries after the attack and was then flown to Germany for further treatment. He has recovered from his injuries.

Riaz said the group had made plans last year to kill Nasheed in front of his wife's house, but gave up because the location was not appropriate. They later discussed targeting Nasheed during his workouts but could not find an effective way, he said.

Islam is the state religion of the Maldives, and practicing and preaching other faiths are banned by law.

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