The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has issued a statement denying reports spreading across social media that a suspect injured in the arson attack on opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) aligned TV station Raajje TV was being treated at the MNDF military hospital.
On October 7, a group of masked men armed with machetes, iron rods and petrol stabbed a security guard, forced open a reinforced door and set fire to the station, destroying its offices and control room as well as cameras, computer systems, broadcasting and transmission equipment.
CCTV footage of the attack showed the masked individual lighting the blaze briefly engulfed in flame, shortly before a fireball blew the door off its hinges.
The MNDF statement said the military hospital treated three firemen who were injured while trying to control the blaze.
”Two of the firemen were treated for burn injuries they received to the skin area near their ear, due to strong heat from the fire,” the MNDF statement said. ”The third fireman was treated for the injuries he received from the strong heat and smoke.”
The MNDF said the third fireman was admitted to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after he had breathing problems.
The MNDF also said it was very uncivilised to spread such news without clarification. The statement did not state to whom it was referring to.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arson attack and criticised the Maldives Police Services’ failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for police protection.
“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile, Raajje TV quoted former president Mohamed Nasheed as alleging that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb “had a hand” in the arson attack on the station, and called on investigation authorities to obtain a court warrant to gain access to the former’s text messages and phone calls.
”I won’t be surprised even if he made bigger allegations,” he said. ”Nasheed is always lying like that.”
Adheeb accused Nasheed of working against him due to his condemnation of the MDP’s calls for a tourism boycott.
Eyewitness to Monday’s attack told Minivan News that the attackers arrived on motorbikes.
”First one motorbike with two persons came, they were covering their faces with masks and one of them were holding an iron bar. We first thought they were getting ready to attack a person but the guy holding the iron bar smashed the glass of the building and the other bikes arrived just as the guy smashed the glass,” said a witness.
”There were three wave motorbikes and one PCX motorbike. The other guys were wearing masks when they arrived, they looked very calm when they entered the place and we did not see what happened inside but we noticed that they were in a rush when they came out of the building,” he said. ”They all left the area on the bikes really fast.”
According to the eyewitness, he saw the bikes coming out to Boduthakurufaanu Magu from Kurangi Goalhi and when they left they went straight towards Henveiru from Boduthakurufaanu Magu.
Speaking at the parliament’s government oversight committee, Raajje TV CEO Akram Kamaluddeen alleged to MPs that the arson attack on Raajje TV was a state organised crime.
Akram Kamaluddeen and Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Yameen did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.
The security guard who was taken hostage and stabbed told local press that the assailants arrived 10 minutes after the staff of Raajje TV had left the station.
The Bangladeshi national guard told the papers that he was inside the building when the assailants came and they asked him to lead them to the floor Raajje TV was on, but when he refused they tied his hand and took him upstairs with them.
He told the papers that he was stabbed and attacked inside the control room of the Raajje TV station, and that after attacking him they left him inside the burning building with his hands tied.
According to the security guard he was able to escape because the group left the door open. He said he came outside and called his supervisor, before fainting and being admitted to IGMH.
CCTV footage of the attack: