Seven people were killed when bombs or grenades exploded as former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed ended her address to a public meeting outside her headquarters Saturday, police and witnesses said. Hospital officials said at least 50 were wounded in the blasts. Police officer Mahabur Rahman said at least 10 policemen were injured. A Reuters reporter at a nearby government hospital where the injured were taken said he had counted seven bodies, including that of a woman.
“We are very busy trying to deal with such a large number of injured people,” a doctor at Dhaka Medical College hospital said. Awami League leaders were at the hospital amid chaotic scenes, with relatives crying and wounded people screaming.
“After one blast, I was lying in the street. Then I heard seven or eight more blasts and something hit me in the head and I fainted,” Gaisuddin, an Awami League worker, his head bandaged, said. Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil said Hasina, president of the league, was “safe, thanks to Allah”.
“Sheikh Hasina was the target of the blast,” he said.
A Reuters cameraman at the scene said many of the injured were women activists. He said he heard several blasts.
Two grenades lay unexploded at the site of the meeting, witnesses said. Wounded women activists were lying on the ground, many in blood-soaked saris. Hundreds of shoes littered the area. TV footage showed a badly bleeding child being carried to hospital.
Officials of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khaleda Zia, which defeated the Awami League in elections in October 2001, were not immediately available for comment.
“When Sheikh Hasina finished her speech and was attempting to get down from the dais, several bombs exploded,” Muzzafar Hussain Maya, a former Awami League minister, told Reuters. He was slightly injured, his white kurta stained with blood.
There has been a spate of bomb blasts in Bangladesh in recent months including one earlier this month which killed an Awami League leader in the northeastern town of Sylhet. (Photo on page 2) In May, a bomb exploded at a mosque near the shrine of a Muslim saint in Sylhet, killing three people and wounding 50, including British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury.
At least 20 people have died in bomb blasts and sporadic political violence this year.