Noonu atoll Miladhoo island council office was set on fire early this morning, causing extensive damage.
The fire incident occurred around 3:00 am on Wednesday, according to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) fire department.
Although islanders and the fire team put out the fire within an hour, almost everything inside the building was destroyed while the building itself was burnt beyond repair, Hussain Ghassan, President of the Miladhoo island council told Minivan News on Wednesday.
Ghassan said that the council has received “several threats” from some people unhappy with the council, of which a majority sides with opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
“Some even threatened to burn down the office”, he said.
Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that police also “suspect it is an arson attack” and the investigation is ongoing.
No arrests have yet been made.
Ghassan reported that the council work has been halted due to the incident and they are looking for a new office to continue work.
However, he said it would be difficult to proceed as “all the paperwork, furniture and other items were lost to the fire”. The damage would cost the council around Rf 1 million (US$65,000), he added.
Miladhoo Island court, situated next to the island office, was also damaged due during the fire.
Police are also investigating an apparent arson attack on a car used by a team of American scientists involved in the Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) project based on Gan in Addu atoll.
The incident was discovered by neighbors around 12:51 am on Sunday, and was put out when police arrived to the scene.
Although officials claim it is too early to determine if the incident was random or targeted, Research Assistant Justin Stachnik said there was “no doubt” that the fire had been intentional. However, citing a generally friendly social atmosphere he suspected it was the work of local youth out for a prank.
Still, Stachnik said neighbors reported that nothing like the fire had happened before in the area.
A senior official at Addu City Council told Minivan at the time that a recent increase in religious tensions, as well as the December 23 protests, had exacerbated religious intolerance in Addu.