Maldives violence spreads

2012-02-09 10:53

Malé – The new Maldivian president has made urgent cabinet appointments to try and contain violence that has spread across the archipelago nation since his predecessor said he was forced to resign in a coup.

President Mohamed Waheed appointed retired colonel Mohamed Nazim as defence minister and lawyer Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as interior minister, presidential aide Mohamed Shareef said today.

“Even though the appointment of a national unity cabinet is taking time, the president made these two urgent appointments to take charge and control the spread of violence since Wednesday evening,” Shareef said.

Waheed was sworn in on Tuesday just hours after his predecessor announced his resignation in a televised press conference.

Nasheed later claimed that he had been forced to step down in what was an effective coup d’etat orchestrated by opposition leaders with the backing of the security forces.

Violence erupted across the holiday resort island yesterday as supporters of former president Mohamed Nasheed stormed police stations and burned government buildings in outlying atolls.

In the capital Malé, thousands of protesters clashed with security forces near the police and military headquarters.

Shareef accused Nasheed of inciting his supporters to unleash “anarchy” on the streets.

Maldivian police declined to give details of any casualties, but denied media reports that as many as three people may have been killed in the unrest.

Police Chief Inspector Abdul Mannan Yoosuf confirmed that violence in the capital had spread to far flung atolls, but added that tourist resorts were unaffected.

The Maldives is dependent on tourism and its resorts, popular with high-end honeymooners, are mostly located on otherwise uninhabited coral islets.

Yoosuf said police were planning a “joint operation with the armed forces” to bring the situation under control”.

It is the Maldives’ worst unrest since clashes in 2003 following the death of an inmate at the hands of security forces, an event which sparked the process of democratic change on the Indian Ocean islands.

In Washington, the state department called for calm and said a senior US envoy would visit the Maldives on Saturday, but stopped short of describing events as a coup.

Nasheed said he suspected Waheed, his former vice-president, had known of a plot to overthrow him.

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