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Maldives hunts bomb in suspected militant plot

Maldives police are searching for a bomb they believe was part of a plot by Islamic militants to attack the country's tourist industry, officials said on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

Maldives police are searching for a bomb they believe was part of a plot by Islamic militants to attack the country's tourist industry, officials said on Wednesday.

The bomb was meant to detonate the same time as a device that exploded on Sept 29 in the capital Male, wounding 12 tourists. It is Indian Ocean island chain's first recorded attack by Islamic militants.

The country has been on high alert since the Male blast, which signaled discontent among young Muslims at the state's dependence on alcohol sales to tourists.

Reports of the missing bomb emerged after arrest of eight men over the weekend.

Police said some of those arrested had told them the first bomb was a religiously motivated attack on the tourism industry, which is the linchpin of the Sunni Muslim state's economy.

"It is almost definite a second bomb was made. It may still be out there. We are searching for it," assistant police commissioner Abdullah Riyaz told Reuters.

The government has cracked down on religious dissent following the September blast, banning foreign preachers and closing unlicensed prayer groups.

Police said they had yet to confirm any links with foreign militant groups but they were investigating reports in the Indian press of links to Pakistani groups.

Intelligence analysts say a propaganda video shot inside a radical Maldives mosque and posted on the Internet has raised fears that al-Qaida was gaining a foothold in the Maldives.

The video was recorded at the Dhar-al-Khuir mosque on the remote Himandhoo island in the hours before it was raided on Oct. 6 as part of an investigation into the September blast.

Dozens of men from the island remain in custody.