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Two killed, 100 hurt as 350 bombs blasts across Bangladesh
Updated: 2005-08-18 09:27

About 350 small bombs exploded within an hour of each other across Bangladesh, killing two people and injuring more than 100 in an unprecedented attack initially linked to banned Islamic extremists, AFP reported.

The bombs, which killed a man and a 10-year-old boy, exploded in all but a few of the South Asian country's 64 towns and cities between 10:30 am and 11:30 am (0430 and 0530 GMT) on Wednesday, the Home Ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia condemned the attacks as "cowardly", the official BSS news agency said.

Zia reportedly said the terrorists' "evil design" was to create panic and destabilize the South Asian country, adding that they were enemies of democracy.

Two Bangladeshi special security force members of the 'Rapid Action Battalion' examine an explosive device in Chittagong, Bagladesh, following a series of blasts around the country.
Two Bangladeshi special security force members of the 'Rapid Action Battalion' examine an explosive device in Chittagong, Bagladesh, following a series of blasts around the country. [AFP]
Police are probing the possible involvement of an Islamic extremist group which was banned by the government in February, after leaflets calling for the implementation of strict Islamic law were found at the blast scenes.

"At all the blast scenes, leaflets bearing the name of the recently banned Jamayetul Mujahideen group were found," the home ministry statement said.

The explosions, including 15 in Dhaka and 20 in the southeastern port of Chittagong, targeted local administrative offices, courts, and bus and railway stations.

"A total of 45 suspects have been arrested, about 350 bombs exploded and the number of injured stands at more than 100," said foreign ministry director Zahirul Haque.

The home ministry appealed for calm.

"After analysing all the incidents it is assumed that the main aim of the explosions was to create panic and to create a destabilized situation in the country," the statement said.

Abdul Kaiyum, Bangladesh's Inspector General of Police, told AFP: "These were small, homemade bombs designed to create panic."

Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar said security had been stepped up across the country.

Most of those hurt suffered minor injuries, police said, adding that they had no reports of any serious or life-threatening injuries.

Mazeedul Haq, Chittagong's police commissioner, said the leaflets bore the name of the Jamayetul Mujahideen and read: "It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made law."

Jamayetul Mujahideen and another hardline group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, were banned in February for their alleged links to a wave of bombings of non-governmental groups, religious shrines and other targets.

A police official in the large southern town of Barisal said leaflets had been found there reading: "Bush and Blair, be warned and get out of Muslim countries. Your days of ruling Muslim countries are over."

The bombings began 90 minutes after the prime minister left Dhaka for China, where she is scheduled to spend five days on a trade-focused visit. It was not known whether she would cut short her trip.

The young boy killed suffered fatal injuries when he picked up one of the devices in the central town of Savar, said local police chief Tariq Kamal. In the northwestern town of Chapai Nawabganj a passer-by was also killed, a local police official added.

Among those arrested was a man in Dhaka who had blast injuries to his hand and three men in the southeastern town of Cox's Bazar suspected of carrying bombs, police said.

Bangladesh is the world's third largest Muslim-majority nation with a population of 140 million.

Its four-party Islamist-allied coalition government has repeatedly rejected claims that it could have a problem with Islamic extremists.

In May neighbouring India said it was concerned at what it called the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

"The scale and coordination of these explosions countrywide raises a number of questions," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday, without elaborating. "Our sympathies go out to the victims and their families."

In banning the two groups in February, the government said it believed they were "involved in criminal activities to achieve their goals".

The second group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, was criticized by police last year for "over-enthusiasm" after villagers complained it pressured women to wear burqas and men to grow beards in accordance with strict Islamic codes.

The country has suffered previous, often deadly, blasts targeting opposition rallies and religious shrines.

Five people, including a former finance minister, died in a grenade attack on an opposition Awami League rally in January. The party staged a series of national strikes in protest.

Analysts said the attacks raised disturbing questions about security in Bangladesh.

"Whoever did this made a big statement. It shows how fragile the security situation is here," security expert Sakhawat Hossain, a former army Brigadier General, told AFP.

"In terms of security, it shows that we are now the weakest country in South Asia, even weaker than Nepal," he added.

The Awami League said it was calling a day-long nationwide strike on Saturday to protest the bomb attacks.

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