An explosion that wounded former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed and four others including a British national was an act of terrorism, police have said, and they are attempting to identify four possible suspects.
Mr Nasheed, 53, was wounded in the blast outside his home on Thursday night as he was about to get into his car, police said.
He is in critical condition in an intensive care unit after life-saving operations on his head, chest, abdomen and limbs, ADK Hospital said on Friday evening.
Mr Nasheed has been an outspoken critic of religious extremism in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching and practising other faiths are banned by law.
Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said police are treating the blast as an act of terrorism against the former president. Two of Mr Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded, he said.
Police have not detected any military-grade components in the explosives used, Mr Hameed said. They are trying to identify four possible suspects but no arrests have been made.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. Photos on social media showed a damaged motorcycle at the scene.
Mr Nasheed is the current parliament speaker and was the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean archipelago, serving from 2008 to 2012.
Current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said in a televised speech that Australian Federal Police investigators will arrive on Saturday. The Australian police force said it will assess what assistance it can provide the investigation.
The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts but has experienced occasional violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital wounded 12 foreign tourists.
Violence has been blamed on a rise in religious extremism. The Maldives has one of the highest per capita numbers of militants who fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the so-called Islamic State group.
Maldives authorities announced in January that eight people arrested in November were found to have been planning to attack a school and were in the process of building bombs in a boat at sea.
Police said they also conducted military training on uninhabited islands and recruited children.
Mr Hameed said it was not known whether the attack on Mr Nasheed was linked to that group.
His presidency ended 30 years of autocratic rule, but his term was cut short when he resigned amid protests.
He was defeated in the subsequent presidential election and was convicted of terrorism under his predecessor for having arrested a senior judge while president, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
He was allowed to go to the UK for medical treatment and received asylum there in 2016. His party colleague Mr Solih won the 2018 presidential election and Mr Nasheed was able to return home.
He has remained an influential figure and was elected parliament speaker in 2019. He has championed global efforts to fight climate change, particularly rising seas threatening the low-lying islands of his archipelago nation.