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Bomb defused near Maldives presidential palace

A remote-controlled bomb has been found and defused near the presidential palace in the Maldives, the military said. The Indian Ocean island nation has faced a political crisis and tensions are running high.

The improvised explosive device (IED) was defused on Monday as panic swept over the small capital Male with police blocking streets and the military upping its presence.

The Maldivian foreign ministry sought to calm the residents, saying on Twitter: "State of Emergency NOT declared in Maldives."

The bomb scare comes a day after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a report finding no conclusive evidence of a bomb being used in what Maldives officials claim was an assassination attempt on President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom's speedboat in September. Gayoom was unharmed in the blast, but his wife and two others were slightly injured.

The Maldives, which had asked the FBI to conduct the investigation,

dismissed the findings as inconclusive.

The president has used the alleged assassination attempt to dismiss several ministers and go after opponents. Last week,

Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was arrested on treason charges

for his alleged role in the speedboat blast, while earlier

in October the defense minister was sacked.

Intrigue in paradise

The Maldives has come under international criticism for jailing former President Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected ruler, on terrorism charges. A United Nations panel has ruled the imprisonment was illegal.

Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid protests, but he and the opposition say he was ousted in a coup.

In July, the parliament backed the impeachment of Vice President Mohamed Jameel on treason charges. Jameel was replaced by Adeeb.

Gayoom is the half-brother of former Maldivian dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the country for three decades until 2008.

Rights groups have criticized the government for a deterioration of human rights on the island nation.

cw/jm (AFP, AP)

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