More than 100 homemade bombs planted by suspected Islamic militants exploded nearly simultaneously across Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing two people, including a young boy, and wounding at least 125.
About 50 people were arrested, a state-run news agency reported. There was no claim of responsibility, but leaflets from a banned group seeking the imposition of Islamic law were found at many scenes.
Police said the bombs apparently were designed to cause limited damage. The blasts killed a bicycle rickshaw driver in the northern town of Chapainawabganj and a 10-year-old boy in the central town of Savar.
Panic in the streets
The explosions caused panic and massive traffic jams in a number of cities, as people fled for safety and rushed to schools to bring their children home.
Security was stepped up, with police deploying to major intersections to check vehicles and even frisking pedestrians for bombs.
At least 125 people were injured in more than 100 blasts, the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reported.
Leaflets from the Jumatul Mujahedin were found at many blast scenes, police said. The group wants to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation governed by secular laws.
“It’s an organized attack,” Lufuzzaman Babar, a top official in the Home Ministry, told the local TV station ATN Bangla. “It’s not a simple incident.”
Three men were arrested in the southern district of Cox’s Bazar for carrying or hurling bombs, said police officer Rezaul Karim. In the city of Chittagong, police arrested two men carrying crude homemade bombs and firecrackers, said police officer Osman Gani said. Two other suspects were picked up elsewhere in Chittagong, Gani said without elaborating.
In Dhaka, police were questioning a hospitalized man who reportedly was injured while allegedly carrying a bomb near two hotels.
The leaflets found near blast sites called for the imposition of Islamic law.
“There should not be any other laws except Allah’s in a Muslim country. But it’s a pity that in Bangladesh, where about 90 percent are Muslims, Allah’s rules are not implemented,” said the leaflets, which were written in Bengali and Arabic.
Earlier this year, the government outlawed Jumatul Mujahedin and another Islamic group, Jagrata Muslim Janata, for their alleged involvement in a spate killings, robberies and bomb attacks in recent years.
Police who examined a number of unexploded bombs said they contained explosives packed in small containers and wrapped in tape, paper or sawdust — instead of the nails or shrapnel that more deadly bombs contain. They were rigged with small, battery-powered timers, police said.
The blasts went off mainly at government offices, press clubs and courts across the country, police and Bangladeshi media reported.
In Dhaka, about a dozen bombs exploded near the airport, at court buildings and in markets, city official Kalpana Rani Dutta said. At least four people were injured, doctors at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said.