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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
'Militants' arrested in Maldives
Police and militants in a stand-off in the island of Himandhoo
The stand-off lasted several hours before turning violent
Police in the Maldives say they have arrested nearly 50 people on a remote island in connection with a bomb blast last month in the capital Male.

Those detained were all Maldivians belonging to an Islamic militant group, according to a government spokesman.

He said clashes preceded the arrests on the island of Himandhoo.

Two Britons, two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists were hurt when the bomb exploded in a park in the capital on 29 September.

No groups has said it carried out the attack, which the government has blamed on Islamic militants in the mostly Muslim archipelago.

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About 100 security personnel searched every house of Himandhoo Island, which has a population of 600, according to a government statement.

Map of Maldives

It said that when they approached a compound used by Islamic radicals, they were confronted by 70 masked men armed with swords, bricks, iron rods, catapults and wooden planks.

By the end of the clashes 34 security force were injured, as were an undisclosed number of suspects.

Those arrested have now been taken to Male for questioning. A search is underway for suspects who may have avoided capture.

A government spokeswoman told the BBC that Himandhoo - about 90km (56 miles) from Male - has been under surveillance for some time because of "radical religious activities".

"These radicals refused to recognise the government's religious authority and set up a break-away 'mosque' - refusing to pray in the mosque built by the government," she said.

Police arrested 10 suspects in the aftermath of the bombing, but later released five.

The tourist industry is the linchpin of the Maldives' economy.



SEE ALSO
Ten arrested over Maldives blast
01 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
21 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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