ucanews.com reporter, DhakaUpdated: July 08, 2016 09:06 AM GMT
Bangladeshi police detain a suspected militant following an attack near Bangladesh's largest Eid prayer rally in Kishoreganj, some 130km from Dhaka on July 7. (Photo by AFP)
Christian leaders in Bangladesh have condemned a bomb and gun attack during the largest prayer gathering for the Islamic Eid ul-Fitr festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
A group of Islamic extremists threw bombs and shot at police outside the venue of the largest Eid prayer gathering on July 7. Four people, including two policemen, were killed. Thirteen more were injured.
One of the attackers was also killed, police said.
Eight people including two suspected attackers were detained for questioning, according to Abu Sayem, additional superintendent of police in Kishoreganj.
The attack came while Bangladesh was still reeling from the shock of a terror strike at a Dhaka cafe on July 1 when Islamic militants killed 20 hostages including 17 foreigners.
"About 300,000 devotees were offering Eid prayers when the assailants came," said Abu Sayem, assistant superintendent of police in Kishoreganj. The police stopped them but not before "they detonated bombs and exchanged gun fire."
Police condoned off the area and evacuated devotees to avoid further casualties, the official said. "We have detained a suspected attacker and a crackdown is currently underway in the area," he added.
Attacking a major religious festival is the "most condemnable and shameful act," said Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission.
"I am speechless," Nokrek said. "I don't know how they can call themselves Muslims." The militants might have been trying to garner maximum attention by targeting such a large gathering on Eid day, he said.
"[The police] need to be more vigilant [because] militants have shown they can carry out an attack anywhere, anytime," he added.
The attacks prove that militants have no religion and no respect for innocent, religious people, said Nirmol Rozario, secretary of Bangladesh Christian Association.
"This was a preplanned attack from militants who wanted to show their strength by targeting a gathering of pious Muslims," Rozario said.
The attack might have been an act of vengeance against prominent Islamic cleric Maolana Fariduddin Masoud, the head imam of the nearby Sholakia mosque, who recently collected 100,000 signatures from Islamic leaders calling for a fatwa against terrorism, Rozario said.
"The militants consider good Muslims to be obstacles to their Caliphate or Islamic rule," he said.
"The government needs to engage the general public more in their anti-militancy efforts," Rozario added. "Because militants come out from our families and society; merely arresting or killing them won't help."