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Bangladeshis celebrate Eid amid tight security

Recent upsurge in militant violence stokes fears of repeat attacks at major prayer gatherings

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka

Published: September 13, 2016 10:05 AM GMT

Updated: September 13, 2016 11:39 AM GMT

Bangladeshis celebrate Eid amid tight security

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anti-terror force exchange Eid greetings while guarding an Eid prayer gathering in Dhaka. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)

Bangladesh has ramped up security for celebrations marking Eid-al-Adha, or the Sacrifice Feast, one of the two major Islamic festivals amid fears over possible militant attacks.

Thousands of security personnel have been drafted in to ensure the festival passes off peacefully, police officials said.

About 150,000 law enforcement personnel including the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anti-terror force, plainclothes detectives and border guards have deployed across the country, according to Jalal Uddin Ahmed, assistant inspector-general (media and public relations) of the Bangladesh police.

"Closed circuit TV cameras and watch towers have been installed at important Eid gatherings while bomb disposal units and dog squads are also active," Ahmed told state-run new agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

Fear of terror attacks remain high following a July 7 attack on the country’s largest prayer gathering in Sholakia, in Kishoreganj district, that left four dead and 13 injured during the Eid-ul-Fitr festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The attack came on the heels of a deadly cafe siege in the capital Dhaka on July 1 that saw 22 people including 17 foreigners killed by militants.

The attacks were the culmination of a sharp rise in Islamic militancy across the country in recent years that also saw the murders of secular and atheist bloggers and attacks on foreign nationals, including a Catholic priest.

 

Muslims exchange Eid greetings after a prayer gathering in Dhaka in this file photo. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)

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Kishoreganj district police chief, Anwar Hossain Khan says a "three-tier security system" is in place around the Sholakia prayer ground to avert a repeat of the July incident.

"People must pass through three security checkpoints and nobody is allowed to carry to anything except a prayer mat. Full-proof security for devotees is our objective," Khan told ucanews.com

Celebrating a major festival like Eid under security blanket is ‘saddening’ and ‘shameful’ for a Muslim-majority nation, prominent cleric and Imam of Sholakia, Maolana Fariduddin Masoud, said.

"Some misguided people, who don’t follow Islamic ideals, are responsible for disgracing Islam. I hope this won’t last forever and people in Bangladesh can again celebrate all religious festivals without fear and heavy security,” Masoud told ucanews.com.

Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, also expressed regret that heavy security had to be adopted for religious festivals.

"This lack of peace, the sense of fear and consequent security measures are not failures of religions, because it’s only a handful of people who have opted for a destructive path," the bishop told ucanews.com.

"To counter them, we have to stick build our families and society through true religious values so we can celebrate religious festivals without security like we did in the past," he said.

Eid al-Adha commemorates the story of the Prophet Abraham, revered also by Christians and Jews, who was willing to sacrifice his only son at God's command. Scripture says that God did so to test Abraham. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was stopped by an angel. Then he saw in a thicket a ram caught by its horns and sacrificed it instead of his son.

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