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Maldives Protests Spread After Leader Ousted


A Maldivian army soldier, left, and policeman take cover as a supporter of Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned Tuesday from his post as Maldivian President, hurls back a tear gas canister thrown during a protest in Male, Maldives, February 8, 2012.

A Maldivian army soldier, left, and policeman take cover as a supporter of Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned Tuesday from his post as Maldivian President, hurls back a tear gas canister thrown during a protest in Male, Maldives, February 8, 2012.

Clashes between police and supporters of the Maldives' former president, Mohamed Nasheed, have spread beyond the capital of Male to several outlying islands, a day after an alleged coup forced his resignation.

Residents of the islands told media outlets that protesters seized several police stations on smaller islands late Wednesday following unconfirmed reports that police had beaten up the former president during an earlier protest in the capital.

At the time, he was leading supporters in a demonstration that erupted into violence when police responded with tear gas and baton charges.

Coup allegations

Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, says he was forced from office in a coup and that the new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, his former second-in-command, should immediately step down.

In an interview with the French news agency, Nasheed said he feared that his successor was involved in the coup attempt and had seized the chance to take over. He is urging the country's judiciary to investigate those responsible for his ouster.

President Hassan has denied the allegations, saying he was unprepared to take control of the country. He also announced he plans to appoint a unity cabinet in the next few days.

Mohamed Nasheed, center, who resigned Tuesday from his post as Maldivian president, marches along with his supporters during a rally in Male, Maldives, February 8, 2012.

Mohamed Nasheed, center, who resigned Tuesday from his post as Maldivian president, marches along with his supporters during a rally in Male, Maldives, February 8, 2012.

Unity cabinet

Hassan was sworn in Tuesday after Nasheed resigned following weeks of anti-government protests that were joined by police. The former president told the country in a televised speech on Tuesday that he was stepping down because he had no desire to use force to maintain his rule.

Nasheed's resignation announcement came after mutinous police took over the state television headquarters in the capital, Male, and broadcast calls for him to step down. Earlier, a group of police had joined an opposition protest and attacked a nearby demonstration led by members of the ruling party, prompting soldiers to use tear gas.

Police protests

The government had faced three weeks of mounting protests after Mr. Nasheed ordered the arrest of a senior judge on charges of misconduct and favoring opposition figures.

Waheed, the Supreme Court and the United Nations Human Rights Commission all called for the judge to be released.

Nasheed became president in 2008, replacing Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who held office for 30 years under a one-party system.

Maldives

The Republic of Maldives is a Muslim-majority nation made up of about 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. It is famous for its beach resorts and hotels that cater to newly married couples and high-end travellers. There was no immediate indication that the political unrest has affected the country's tourism industry.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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