Bomb attack on former Maldives president linked to Islamic extremists, police say

FILE PHOTO: Maldives former President Mohamed Nasheed leaves from Colombo
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By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) -Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed is conscious after life-saving surgery, his family said on Saturday, as police made two arrests in connection with a blast they said was being treated as a terror attack.

Nasheed, the president of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party and the current parliament speaker, was critically injured after a bomb exploded as he left his family home in the capital Malé on Thursday.

Police and prosecutors on Saturday said they had arrested two men linked to Islamic extremism in connection with the blast.

"From the people arrested so far and the information we have, there is a link to extremism," Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem told reporters.

A third man is wanted in connection with the attack, he said, adding police believe several others were involved in planning and carrying out the bombing.

"I'm good," Nasheed said after coming off life support, according to a tweet by his sister Nashida Sattar.

His brother, Ibrahim Nashid, said doctors were happy with Nasheed's recovery.

"He is out of life support and breathing on his own," he said in a tweet. "Managed to exchange a few words. Promised to come back stronger. I believe him."

The medical team that treated Nasheed told reporters on Saturday that the metal ball bearings used in blast had caused significant internal damage, but had missed major organs and arteries.

One projectile that hit Nasheed's lungs had narrowly missed his heart because it had struck a rib, doctors said.

Nasheed is now conscious and receiving critical care at the ADK hospital in Malé.

Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically-elected president, is an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism in the Sunni Muslim island archipelago.

The country has a reputation for political unrest.

Nasheed was deposed and exiled in what he called a coup in 2012, while in 2015, former President Abdulla Yameen escaped unharmed after an explosion on his speedboat.

In 2007, a blast blamed on Islamist militants targeted foreign tourists and injured 12 people.

(Reporting by Mohamed Junayd in Male and Waruna Karunatilake in ColomboWriting by Alasdair PalEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Christina Fincher)