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A Maldivian boy scout foiled an assassination attempt on the leader of his tiny nation, grabbing an attacker's knife as the man jumped out of a crowd of well-wishers and lunged at President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a government official said.
Gayoom was unhurt, but his shirt was ripped as the attacker tried a second time to stab him before being overpowered by security guards, government spokesman Mohammed Shareef said.
"One brave boy saved the president's life," he said.
Shareef, speaking by telephone from the Maldives' capital, Male, did not identify a suspect but said the assassination attempt may have had a "political motive". Opposition to Gayoom's three-decade rule has grown in recent years and there have also been reports of increased Islamic militancy in the Muslim nation.
The attack occurred soon after Gayoom arrived at the Hoarafushi islet, one of the 1,190 coral islands that make up the Indian Ocean nation.
The attacker hid a knife in the Maldivian flag as he awaited the president's arrival, Shareef said. As Gayoom greeted the crowd, the man lunged at his stomach, but 15-year-old Mohammed Jaisham Ibrahim, wearing his blue Maldives boy scout uniform with a blue kerchief around his neck, reached out and grabbed the blade, according to the government.
The teenager was flown to Male for medical treatment, Shareef said. He was reportedly injured on his hands.
After the attack, Gayoom addressed the nation in a radio broadcast, thanking the teenager and calling for calm, according to the website of the Minivan newspaper.
Gayoom, 70, has ruled the Maldives since 1978 and helped turn it into a major destination for tourists seeking a quiet vacation on virgin beaches surrounded by crystal blue waters.
However, the country of 350,000 people has also had its share of turmoil in recent months.
On September 29, a homemade bomb blamed on Islamic militants exploded in a park in the capital, Male, wounding 12 tourists. A week later, police and soldiers raided an island that was a reputed insurgent stronghold, sparking a battle with masked men armed with clubs and fishing spears that wounded more than 30 security officers.
Gayoom has also faced opposition protests to his previously unchallenged rule in recent years. Under the pressure, he legalized opposition parties and agreed to hold the nation's first truly democratic election later this year.
The New Maldives Movement, a new opposition coalition formed to challenge Gayoom in the elections, condemned the attempted assassination. (AP)
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