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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Maldives 'had second jail riot'
By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Colombo

News has emerged of a second jail riot in the Maldives during weekend disturbances in which three prisoners died.

Soldiers inspects riot debris
Security forces fired tear gas into the rioting crowds in Male
Eyewitnesses say up to 18 others were seriously injured when the security forces fired on inmates.

The first riot sparked anti-government street protests on Saturday in the capital, Male, which damaged several public buildings.

The second riot was on Sunday, but telephones in the jail were switched off until Tuesday so news is only now filtering out.

The violence is unprecedented in the Maldives, a sleepy atoll famed for its beach resorts.

Speech sparked second riot

A riot on Friday in Maafushi jail was the trigger for anti-government protests but it has now emerged there was more trouble on Sunday.

The prisoners say they were angry after they heard that the president had accused them of attacking the prison armoury in a televised address to the nation on Saturday.

This, they say, was a lie because they had no idea where the armoury was.

Eyewitnesses say after the second riot the prisoners were chained and handcuffed in their cells on Sunday and kept without food until Monday night.

One man said he saw injured people lying everywhere after the security forces opened fire.

Maldives beach
1,200 islands in archipelago
Population is over 300,000
Majority is Sunni Muslim
One-party rule since 1978
Low-lying islands vulnerable to rise in sea-levels

Many of the seriously wounded have been flown to neighbouring Sri Lanka for medical treatment.

One man with bullet injuries to his chest died in a private hospital in Colombo but the authorities have not released his name.

It appears the authorities are sending the injured abroad in an attempt to calm the situation in the capital, where the sight of the first two dead bodies triggered violence directed against government buildings and the police.

Several reports from Male say a number of well-known opposition supporters and young people suspected of involvement in the protests have been picked up for questioning but it is not clear how many.

Did you witness any of the disturbances in the Maldives? Send us your comments using the form below. If you have any photos send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk

I was watching the mob on the streets from my house on Saturday night. The crowd was huge, armed with butchers' knives and iron rods... basically anything they could find. Suddenly the police arrived in armoured vehicles, and dropped a smoke bomb right in front of my house. Within minutes the crowds dispersed. A curfew was set for the night and my brother [who lives on a nearby island] was stopped by the police on his way to the ferry terminal and was asked to stay in Male and to stay indoors. Since then the police have been everywhere, questioning everyone on the streets, schools have been closed and even some businesses. Everyone is stopped on the road and asked for their identification and details of where they are going.
Violet, Maldives

For the first time in the modern history of Maldives there was such unrest and mayhem. I saw youngsters burning the High Court building. All the sub-police stations, Office of the Commisioner of elections and the National Conference Centre (Dharubaaruge) were also attacked by mobs. Unfortunately no news of the incident appeared in any of the newspapers. The radio and TV didn't broadcast any.
Ismail Abdulla, Maldives

I saw the riot in progress and have witnessed much of the police's activities that have been going on today [Tuesday]. My friends and I have seen many people being hauled in off the streets in Male by the police and the government's security forces - being dragged out of shops and homes. We have heard that people have been taken away by the police and security forces in the middle of the night, nobody knows where to or under what charge. The police and the security forces appear to be arresting anyone who was seen during the riots and anyone who was caught on camera when the buildings were attacked. The police had cameras during the riots and there were cameras in the buildings that were attacked. My friends last night saw two men being hauled out of their shops and thrown into police vans, just before curfew started. I have also seen many young people being arrested, not hardened criminals as the government claims. Everyone here is very scared of possible government reprisals.
'Rosa', Maldives

Here in the capital Male everything was calm and stable as usual until the afternoon at about 2:00 AM on Saturday [20 September 2003]. It was only a few crowd running around burning and destroying some of the government buildings. No private property was damaged or affected. It is very first time in the current history of Maldives that this kind of a thing happened. People obeyed the request from the president and most had returned home instead, enjoying the scenery.
Rasheed, Maldives

People here have no right to throw stones and fire government buildings. It was almost crazy but the government is doing its best and I am sure they will do it. It's all rumours in here.
Pink, Maldives

The violence first erupted near the hospital when the police refused to let the friends and family of the injured inmates access to the hospital. In a tense situation the police tried to show its macho muscles and this sparked further agitation and unrest. Now three inmates have died due to police brutality.
Ibn Hazm, Maldives

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