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U.S. authorities sent FBI agents to the Maldives to help foreign tourists after weekend bombing

U.S. authorities have sent FBI agents to the Maldives to help investigate a weekend bombing that injured 12 foreign tourists, U.S. officials said Monday.

The nail-packed bomb exploded outside a crowded park in the Maldives capital, Male, on Saturday. It was the first such attack reported on the Indian Ocean archipelago renowned for its exclusive tourist resorts.

"We condemn without reservation this senseless act of violence," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

The U.S. government sent the FBI regional representative to help with the investigation, the statement said without providing details of the aid provided.

"We don't want to reveal too much in this early stage of the investigation," embassy spokeswoman Kathy Fox said.

Home Minister Abdullah Kamaldeen told parliament Monday that authorities had arrested eight local people and two foreign citizens in connection with the blast, the government newspaper Haveeru reported on its Web site.

He declined to identify those arrested, but state-owned Television Maldives reported Sunday that the two foreigners were from Bangladesh, according to Haveeru. Those arrested included minors, Haveeru reported.

Officials have not given details of the suspects' alleged role in the attack or their motive.

A British couple, eight Chinese and two Japanese tourists suffered burns from in the blast. The Chinese and Japanese tourists were discharged from hospital and left the country, local officials said.

The Britons remained hospitalized, but were expected to be released Tuesday, said an official from the British Embassy, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"Their injuries are serious, but they are not life-threatening," he said.

Some Western diplomats have expressed concern about the potential for violence in the Sunni Muslim country. Half the population is under 18, reasonably well-educated and with few prospects for good jobs. Some young people have turned to drug use, while others have embraced a conservative strain of Islam that had been virtually unheard of on the islands just a few years ago.

In recent years, there has been tension and occasional outbreaks of violence between opposition activists and government forces controlled by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has ruled the country for 29 years.

The Maldives, with a population of about 350,000, is by far the wealthiest and most orderly country in South Asia. About 600,000 tourists visit the country each year, accounting for one-third of its economy.

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