DHAKA, Aug 17: A series of simultaneous blasts rocked Bangladesh on Wednesday, sending a wave of panic across the country. Over 350 small bombs went off at different places, including 63 in the country’s 65 district headquarters, between 10.30am and 11.30am.

The explosions left at least two people dead and more than 150 people injured.

The government put security forces on high alert following the unprecedented serial blasts, which the State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar termed an “organised attack”.

“An organised gang may be involved in the gruesome attacks,” the minister told reporters after the blasts. “It is not an isolated incident,” said the minister, adding that he ordered the authorities concerned to bring the perpetrators to book.

The serial blasts took place within an hour of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s departure for Beijing on a five-day official visit to China and about two months ahead of the twice-postponed 13th summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, now scheduled for November 12 and 13.

Police said about 350 blasts were reported in almost all the district headquarters and law-enforcement personnel picked up at least 50 people in connection with the incidents.

In the capital, the bombs went off at different places, including the Zia International Airport, High Court, district judge’s court, National Press Club, Dhaka Electricity Supply Authority Headquarters, Mohakhali inter-district bus terminal, Gulshan Natun Bazar, near Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, and the Dhaka University campus, during the busy office hours in between 11am and 11am. The police said that they received reports of bomb explosions at 28 places in the capital.

The government, in a press note issued on Wednesday evening, assured people that it was determined to protect their life and property and urged them not to panic.

The press note said there were time devices in the bombs that were exploded, and leaflets of the recently banned Jamaatul Mujahideen, an Islamist political outfit, were found at the scenes of blasts.

In most cases, the targets were government establishments like court buildings and offices of the deputy commissioners, said the handout. “…it seems that the main objective of the blasts was to scare people and create an unstable situation in the country.”

Meanwhile, the government asked security forces to maintain high alert.

After the explosions, police, rapid action battalion and armed police battalion enhanced security through searching vehicles and suspected commuters at different points of the city. The prime minister’s office, secretariat, the diplomatic enclave and key government installations were brought under security blanket through deployment of additional forces.

Meanwhile, the leaflets that were found at almost all the sites of blasts warned the government of counter-action “if any Muslim is arrested for campaigning for the enforcement of Islamic laws in Bangladesh”.

Updated Aug 18, 2005 12:00am

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