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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 17:46 GMT
Attack on president of Maldives
Maldives President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
President Gayoom is Asia's longest-serving leader
The President of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has escaped unhurt after an attempted knife attack.

A man lunged at him while he was visiting an atoll in the far north of the Indian Ocean island chain.

A boy scout grabbed the kitchen knife as the assailant tried to strike. The boy, who is 15, was seriously injured. The attacker was arrested by police.

President Gayoom had just got off a boat on to an island in the far north of islands when the attack took place.

'Assassination attempt'

Presidential spokesman Mohammed Hussain Shareef said Mr Gayoom was greeting supporters when a man wielding a knife attempted to stab him.

Map of Maldives

"A 15-year-old boy scout standing near the assailant attempted to deflect the attack and was severely injured," a statement said.

"The president met with the boy and thanked and praised him for his bravery."

Mr Shareef said the boy suffered a serious injury to his hand.

"The president was not hurt, but the knife did catch his shirt. It was definitely an assassination attempt," he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Shareef said that the attacker was wielding the knife wrapped in the national flag of the Maldives.

The president was unhurt, he said, although his shirt was spattered with blood.

Islamic militancy

Mr Shareef said the attack was more likely to have been carried out by President Gayoom's political rivals than Islamist hardliners.

He ruled out any connection with a bomb blast in the capital, Male, last September.

That incident raised concerns over the possibility of Islamic militancy in the traditionally peaceful archipelago which is predominantly Muslim.

President Gayoom is Asia's longest serving leader, elected to office in yes-or-no referendums.

In recent years he has introduced reforms which include allowing political parties but the opposition says he is dragging his feet on change in a bid to hang on to power.

Maldives militant move condemned
18 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Ten arrested over Maldives blast
01 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
21 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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