Monday, February 14, 2005

BANGLADESH FLASH: Bombs explode at Valentine's day event

 A Bangladeshi bomb blast victim lies on a bed at hospital following a bomb explosion at a Valentine Day celebration programme in Dhaka. Three bombs exploded outside a social centre in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka where students were celebrating Valentine's day, police said.

Bombs explode at Valentine's day event in Bangladesh

DHAKA (AFP) - Three bombs exploded outside a social centre in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka where students were celebrating Valentine's day, police said.

Around five people suffered minor injuries and three further bombs had to be defused by police, officer-in-charge Mahbubul Rahman of Dhaka Police told AFP.

"Three bombs exploded but they were very small bombs and although they made a lot of noise and caused quite a bit of chaos there were no serious injuries," Rahman said.

The explosions took place outside the Teacher Students Centre in the University area where a cultural evening to mark Valentine's day was taking place, he added.

Earlier, thousands of police and paramilitary forces were mobilized across the country as opposition parties protested a deadly grenade attack last month and the coalition government rallied supporters.

The opposition Awami League enforced the first day of a 36-hour shutdown strike to protest the attack on a party rally which killed five people, including a former finance minister.

The strike coincided with a previously arranged programme of rallies by the four parties of the Islamist-allied coalition government led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

The rallies called by the coalition government were being held to protest the opposition's strikes and a series of unexplained attacks and bomb blasts in the country over the past year, officials said.

Targets have included religious shrines, cinema halls, and opposition political rallies.

In May last year the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh was slightly hurt in a grenade assault that killed three people.

In August, a grenade attack on an opposition rally left more than 20 people dead

In Dhaka and the southeastern port of Chittagong police said thousands of extra forces had been drafted in to prevent clashes between supporters of the two parties.

Around 10,000 police and paramilitaries were deployed in Dhaka, deputy police commissioner Mizanur Rahman told AFP.

Strike supporters set three buses ablaze in the capital Dhaka late Sunday although no-one was injured, Rahman added.

Private vehicles were off the road Monday and shops, businesses, schools and colleges were closed.

The situation was similar in the country's other main cities of Sylhet and Chittagong, police and witnesses said.

At Chittagong, deliveries to and from the country's main port had been suspended, officials said.

The strike is the latest in a series called by the opposition to protest the January 27 grenade attack in northeastern Bangladesh.

Last year, the Awami League called 22 strikes despite pleas from aid donors and business groups who say such actions hit the nation's impoverished economy.

The party said it was highlighting the failure of the government to crack down on crime and corruption.

The government says it is working hard to tackle a difficult situation inherited from the former Awami League administration.