A woman cries in the aftermath of the attack (l) while an ambulance attends the scene (r) (APTN)
As thousands of Shiite Muslims gathered for a religious procession before dawn Saturday, unidentified attackers hurled home-made bombs that exploded in the crowd and killed a teenage boy while injuring more than 100 others in Bangladesh’s capital, police said.
Police said the attack on Shiites – a minority in the Sunni-dominated country – was unprecedented for Bangladesh, which has seen a rise in violence this year claimed by extremist Islamist groups amid political instability.
Authorities immediately arrested two suspects and recovered two unexploded bombs, but they dismissed the attack as an attempt to further destabilize the country. No group immediately claimed responsibility.
“Given the nature of attacks, I think this has been done to create chaos in the country. It is sabotage,” Dhaka’s senior police official Asaduzzamn Mia said. “But it is clear that it was a planned attack.”
Witnesses said some 25,000 had started gathering at 2am for the 5-mile march through Dhaka’s older quarter from Huseni Dalan, an important 17th century Shiite center of learning, to a mosque.
Of the five bombs thrown into the crowd, three exploded, sending thousands of panicked people fleeing in all directions.
Relatives cried out for their loved ones in the dark. Shoes and sandals littered the pavement, along with colorful flags and chains used by youths to beat themselves during the procession to show their grief for Ashoura, a 10-day religious ritual marking the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
One 15-year-old boy died from shrapnel wounds just before reaching the hospital and was taken to the mortuary, where his brother sat wailing outside the front door.
Most of the injured were in stable condition at local hospitals or had been released within a few hours, said Dr Nazimun Nesa of the state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital.