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Maldives President survives assassination bid

Last updated on: January 08, 2008 18:39 IST

Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday survived an attempt on his life when a teenage boy scout stopped a youth from stabbing him as he was mingling with a crowd in the north of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The attacker, a 20-year-old wielding a knife, jumped out of a crowd that gathered to welcome the president on his arrival at North Thiladhunmathi atoll in Hoarafushi islet and tried to stab Gayoom in his stomach.

However, a 15-year-old boy scout, Mohamed Jaisham, grabbed the youth and wrestled with him before the attacker was captured, officials said.

"An unidentified man attempted to attack the President with a knife today," a statement from the President's Office in the capital Male said. "The President escaped this serious attack without any harm. However, a boy scout was injured in the incident," the statement said.

According to Maldivian Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed, Gayoom was greeting people when the youth pulled out the knife. "The attacker had hidden the knife wrapped in a national flag," a spokesman for Gayoom's office said, adding that he was now in police custody. The motive for the attack was not known, police said adding, investigations were being conducted.

Gayoom said in a nationwide address after the attack that he had survived 'thanks to Mohamed Jaisham and Allah'. The Maldives, a popular travel destination, especially for honeymooning couples, with its chain of 1,192 coral and white sand islands, also witnessed a bomb attack on September 29, 2007 in which 12 foreign tourists were injured.

Authorities blamed the bombing on Islamic extremists trying to harm the tourism industry in the islands located near the southern tip of India. Three men convicted of carrying out the terror attack were last month sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment each.

The 76-year-old Gayoom is the longest serving President in Asia and has been in power since 1978. There have been at least three coup attempts against Gayoom in the past, including one in November 1998 during which he sought India's help to crush it.

Faced with opposition protests to his rule in recent years, Gayoom has legalised opposition parties and agreed to hold election later in 2006.