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Cablegate: Maldives: Blast in Male Apparently Targets

VZCZCXRO3135
OO RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1348/01 2741026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 011026Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6894
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0434
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7421
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5556
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4044
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1409
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8012
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5647
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2343
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001348

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS, SCA/RA, AND CA/OCS/ACS/NESCA W HURT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL CASC MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: BLAST IN MALE APPARENTLY TARGETS
TOURISM, SHOCKS GOVERNMENT


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A blast in Male's Sultan Park on the
afternoon of September 29 wounded 12 foreign tourists.
Foreign Minister Shahid told Ambassador the same day that the
Government of Maldives (GORM) was shocked by the incident and
does not know who was responsible. Eleven arrests have so
far been made in connection with the incident. The
opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said that the
blast showed the "Government has failed to tackle crime" and
"is tolerating extremism." Post has issued a warden message
saying there is no need to cancel travel plans to resorts,
but suggesting tourists refrain from nonessential trips to
the capital for now. Regional LEGAT and A/LAT from New Delhi
traveled over the weekend to Male' to provide investigative
support to the Maldivian Police, and two additional FBI
agents will join them this week. The Embassy issued a public
statement on October 1 condemning the bombing. End Summary.

2. (U) A blast in Male's Sultan Park on the afternoon of
September 29 wounded 12 tourists, two British, two Japanese
and eight Chinese. Local media say the explosion, the first
ever bomb blast in Maldives, was caused by an improvised
explosive device triggered by a mobile phone. Maldives
government spokesman Mohamed Shareef confirmed that 12 people
received burn injuries, but were in stable condition.

Government Unsure Who to Blame
------------------------------

3. (SBU) Foreign Minister Shahid told Ambassador on
September 29 that the Government of Maldives (GORM) was
shocked by the incident and does not know who is responsible.
President Gayoom on Sunday said publicly that groups calling
for the boycott of Maldives resorts must "share some
responsibility" for the incident. He did not name, but was
clearly referring to, the UK-based group Friends of Maldives
which has encouraged tourists to boycott those resorts that
are owned by members of the Government. Ruling party
spokesman Ibrahim Shafiu told the website Minivan News that
"in a situation like this, you think about who your enemies
are... unless proved otherwise by the investigative
authorities, we will be unable to believe they are not
involved in this." One unnamed government official
speculated in the local press that the attack, which occurred
during Ramadan, could have been conducted "by jihadists on
our tourism industry."

Opposition Blames the Government
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)
has said that the blast showed that the "Government has
failed to tackle crime." MDP spokeswoman Mariya Didi accused
the Government of "tolerating extremism and not taking action
against extremist activities in the country." One opposition
contact made a far-fetched speculation to PolOff that the
blast may have been an LTTE retaliation for recent GORM
support to the Sri Lankan security forces. He also noted
that the blast occurred in a site that is constantly
monitored by police cameras and wondered whether perhaps the
police were somehow involved.

Eleven Suspects in Custody
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Eleven arrests have been made in connection with
the incident. A police spokesman told Minivan news that all
arrests were based on forensic evidence. The Australian High
Commission in Colombo told Pol Chief that on September 30 a
Maldivian regularly residing in Colombo had been arrested in
connection with the incident while attempting to leave
Maldives. Embassy later learned that the individual had
actually left Maldives, but was detained on arrival at the
Colombo airport at the request of Maldivian officials and
returned to Male'.

Travel Advice Adjusted
-----------------------

COLOMBO 00001348 002 OF 002

6. (U) Post has issued a warden message (cleared with CA)
saying that resort islands and the international airport are
still considered safe, but suggesting tourists refrain from
nonessential trips to the capital island itself for now.
(Note: Male's international airport is on a separate island,
and tourists rarely visit the capital on their way to resort
destinations.) The British Government has also decided to
update its travel advice to include information on the
incident, according to the UK High Commission in Colombo, but
also is not issuing a blanket warning against travel to
Maldives.

U.S. Provides Investigative Assistance
--------------------------------------

7. (SBU) In response to requests from President Gayoom and
local law enforcement officials, LEGAT and A/LAT arrived in
Male' on September 30 and October 1 from New Delhi to provide
investigative support to the Maldivian Police. Two FBI
agents from the Los Angeles Field Office of the
Extraterritorial Investigations Unit will arrive in Male on
October 3 to provide additional assistance. The presence of
the team from Los Angeles will not be publicized. The
Foreign Minister thanked the Ambassador for the USG's quick
and helpful response.

8. (SBU) In a phone consultation with RSO, LEGAT noted that
training on crime scene investigations provided earlier to
Maldivian law enforcement authorities under ATA and other
programs appeared to have paid rich dividends. Maldives
police had immediately moved to secure and cordon off the
blast site, preserving important evidence and collecting
relevant material in evidence bags. They also immediately
called for assistance. This is far above the standard
normally encountered in South Asia in handling crime scenes
and should greatly assist FBI and other agencies in
evaluating what happened in Male'.

Embassy Issues Statement Deploring Incident
-------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) On October 1, Post issued the following statement
and published it on its websites: "The U.S. Embassy was
shocked and saddened to learn of the bombing incident in Male
on September 29. We express our sympathy to those who were
injured, and to their families. We condemn without
reservation this senseless act of violence. The U.S. Federal
Bureau of Investigation's regional representative is
currently assisting the Maldivian authorities in their
investigation."

10. (SBU) COMMENT: The explanations proffered by both the
government and opposition regarding the affiliations and
motivations of those responsible for the blast strike us as
politically motivated and unlikely to be borne out by the
subsequent investigation. However, Maldivian authorities
appear to be well on their way to identifying and detaining
those involved. The wide array of accusations and
speculation surrounding the event indicate the degree to
which this incident has shocked and alarmed the country.
While it is too early to draw firm conclusions, the
circumstances strongly suggest that the real target of this
attack was Maldives' burgeoning tourism industry. Once Post
learns more from the preliminary investigations now underway,
we plan to hold another EAC meeting to assess our plans for
Maldives Friendship Week, November 3-7.
BLAKE

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