Police-MNDF special operation underway in Male’

Five people have been taken into custody by the Maldives Police Service and Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) under a joint special operation launched last night to quell violence and unrest in the capital.

A police media official confirmed that five people were arrested in separate incidents in Male’.

Shortly before midnight, police dispersed a crowd of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters demanding the arrest of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim outside his residence, Galolhu Aabin.

Balcony windows of the People’s Alliance MP’s first floor apartment were smashed before riot police moved in.

The MP for Dhiggaru is currently under house arrest accused of bribery and attempting to influence independent institutions as well as cause physical harm to political opponents.

Announcing the joint special operation at a press conference last night, Major Abdul Raheem said MNDF assistance was requested by the Home Minister and appealed for cooperation from the public.

Denying any connection to the ongoing corruption investigation involving opposition MPs, Chief Inspector Hamdhoon Rasheed stressed that the measures were in response to growing public disorder triggered by political unrest and a resurgence of gang violence after the end of the World Cup.

“[…] We began [the operation] because some political parties are trying to create further chaos in the island using these roving gangs,” he said. “What we want is to ensure that this is a safe environment for those who don’t want any involvement in this or just wants to live peacefully.”

He added that gang attacks on rival camps set up to screen World Cup matches had taken place sporadically and was currently on the rise.

Opposition parties have blamed the unrest on angry mobs of MDP supporters gathering outside opposition MPs’ and judges’ residences.

While 18 people were taken into custody on Wednesday night following the disturbance at the MDP rally, Hamdhoon said all have since been released.

Asked whether police had arrested masked assailants that allegedly tried to attack President Mohamed Nasheed, the Chief Inspector answered no.

Hamdhoon further defended police handling of violent clashes outside opposition MP Abdulla Yameen’s residence after police reportedly took 40 minutes to intervene with tear gas.