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Bangladeshis Shaken By Hundreds Of Explosions Around The Country

Updated: August 17, 2005 05:00 PM GMT
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The auxiliary bishop of Dhaka has expressed the urgent need for peace in Bangladesh in light of the virtually simultaneous explosion of about 450 bombs across the country on Aug. 17.

The blasts between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon in 63 of the country´s 64 districts and divisional cities prompted Auxiliary Bishop of Dhaka Theotonius Gomes to tell UCA News, "This country needs a peaceful atmosphere."

According to the latest reports, the explosions killed two people and injured 500 others. One of those killed was a 10-year schoolboy in Savar, 25 kilometers northwest of Dhaka. The other, a rickshaw-puller, died from his injuries in Chapai Nawabganj district town, 352 kilometers northwest of Dhaka.

As security was stepped up across the country, Bishop Gomes stressed the importance of basic religious values. "We expect to see the application of the values of religion that can establish peace," he said after the attacks.

The bishop also stressed the need for dialogue, given the current situation in Bangladesh. He pointed out that the local Church has been trying to promote peace at various times through inter-faith dialogue with representatives of different religions in the country. In the long run, he said, this initiative will have a positive impact because it is aimed at reaching educated people who are involved in Islamic studies in the universities. By contrast, the recent bomb explosions are "non-lasting," Bishop Gomes commented.

Suspicion over the bombings has fallen on a prohibited Islamic extremist group. Leaflets found at most explosion sites bore the name "Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh" in Arabic and Bengali. The leaflets call for Islamic law in the Muslim-majority nation and denounce NGO activities in the country.

The bombs exploded in most of Bangladesh´s main cities and towns, and outside courthouses, government buildings, airports, press clubs and the United States Embassy in the capital.

Nirmol Rozario, secretary general of the Bangladesh Christian Association, criticized the unprecedented attacks and told UCA News, "The event itself is over, but its effects will continue for a long time." He said he hates such "unwanted violence" because it is a "negative expression of Islamic fundamentalists, and a warning to the country´s government and civil society."

The nation will suffer and terrorism will flourish, Rozario said, if the government does not take proper measures. "The fundamentalist terrorists are trying to seize control of the government, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. However, he added, neither the Church nor its institutions seem to have been terrorist targets this time.

Chandan Gomes, a Catholic leader in Khulna diocese, southwestern Bangladesh, told UCA News by phone that his area is in panic. "We are worried about organizing any social or religious gatherings at this time," Gomes said.

Dinajpur, a district town where several Catholic and Protestant churches are located, was hit by nine explosions. Sontosh Sorren, Caritas regional director for Dinajpur, told UCA News that while this attack apparently is not against churches, it creates unrest for all, irrespective of caste and creed.

Bangladesh is now in a state of high alert, with security tightened around public buildings, diplomatic areas, airports and hotels.

The main opposition political party, Awami League, has called for a daylong strike around the country on Aug. 20 to protest the attacks. Media reports say Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who left Dhaka on a five-day visit to China 90 minutes before the bombings, called the attacks "cowardly" acts of terrorism.


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