Unprecedented Blast Rocks Maldives Tourist Site

An unprecedented bombing has hit a tourist attraction in the Maldives. Authorities say 12 foreign travelers, in Male, the capital of the island nation, were injured. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.

A blast, caused by what is being described as a small home-made bomb, went off Saturday afternoon at the entrance to a crowded park housing the Maldives national museum, near Army headquarters. Foreign tourists on a bus were among those wounded.

The Maldives, a predominately Sunni Muslim country of 350,000 people in the Indian Ocean, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, is not accustomed to experiencing this type of violence, according to Information Ministry spokeswoman Noora Ali.

"This has never happened in the Maldives before, so the government is strongly condemning this act," said Ali.

British, Chinese and Japanese tourists are among the injured.

The Information Ministry official says authorities do not have any suspects at this time.

"Nobody has come forth taking any responsibility on this, so it's unknown," said Ali. "They've released CCTV footage also to the public. And the public has been urged to share any information that might be able to help with the investigation."

While the tourism industry has been spared violence until now, there have been occasional clashes between government forces and opposition activists.

The Maldives, for nearly 30 years, has been under the tight control of six-term President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The president promised democratic reforms after riots in the capital three years ago, but there has been little progress in that direction.

Analysts say a growing number of disaffected young people have become followers of a conservative strain of Islam, prompting rising concern about the possibility of jihadist violence.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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