The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blasts in Bangla cinemas kill 15

Dhaka, Dec. 7 (Reuters): A series of near-simultaneous bomb blasts at four cinemas packed with families celebrating Id killed 15 people today and wounded nearly 300, police said.

The bombs went off at movie theatres in and around the normally quiet tourist town of Mymensingh, 150 km north of the capital, at 6 pm.

Home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said the attacks could be the work of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network or some other terror group and ordered a nationwide security alert. “Police suspect al Qaida or any other terror groups are behind the bomb blasts,” he said.

Chowdhury said political opponents might also have been behind the explosions in a bid to destabilise the government.

“We are trying to find out who are involved in these cruel acts,” he said. “The government has ordered security alert all over the country to prevent any such attempts of terror acts.”

Nearly 2,000 men, women and children were in the theatres at the time of the blasts, police said. Doctors said many of the wounded had lost limbs. “There have been seriously injured people admitted into hospitals. Police have launched an immediate investigation,” an officer said.

The police said no one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts. No foreigners were among the dead. “We have now recovered 14 bodies from the cinemas. The number of deaths may rise,” inspector Abu Taleb said over phone.

Doctors said another person died in hospital, where some 50 victims were lying in a critical condition.

The police arrested five suspects from around the bombed cinemas. Troops have cordoned off the debris, witnesses said.

The blasts contrast with recent attacks in Asia, including the October 12 Bali bombings, which have been blamed on Muslim militants and aimed at western targets.

An Indian daily had said last month that intelligence agencies believe Osama’s deputy, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, was in hiding in Bangladesh, but Dhaka dismissed the report.

Bangladesh had said it was investigating if there were camps belonging to Indian militant groups on its soil. “A list of 99 camps of rebel groups from India’s northeastern states, as alleged by Indian authorities, is being investigated and the outcome would be conveyed to India,” foreign secretary Shamsher M. Chowdhury said.

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