Dhaka, Dec. 8: Khaleda Zia’s government launched a crackdown on the Opposition Awami League after bombs ripped through cinemas in northern Mymensingh town yesterday, killing 18 people, as families celebrated Id.
In raids on their houses early today, police detained two senior leaders of Sheikh Hasina’s party and two writers on charges of anti-state activities, sabotage and conspiracy to destabilise the government.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Hasina’s political secretary, Shafi Ahmed, a leader of the student chapter of Hasina’s party, Muntasir Mamum, a Dhaka University teacher and writer, and Shahriar Kabir, a writer and human rights activist, were kept in the headquarters of the detective police.
The houses of several other Opposition leaders and critics of the government were also raided. The police said 21 people, including some students, had been arrested in Mymensingh. In Dhaka, 39 members of the Awami League were taken into custody.
Chowdhury — who was freed only last month after being arrested in October — Ahmed and Mamum were produced in court, which sent them to three days’ police remand. Not produced before a court yet, Kabir had earlier been arrested in November 2001 after his arrival in Dhaka from a visit to India and charged with sedition. He was released on bail in January.
Home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said the arrests of the four were not related to the bombings of the four movie halls. He also denied having said yesterday that al Qaida could be behind the serial bombings.
“How can I say that al Qaida operatives were responsible' There is no presence of the terrorists on the soil of Bangladesh,” Chowdhury said.
A news agency had quoted him as saying that the bombings could be the work of the supporters of Osama bin Laden or any other terrorist group.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia today visited the bombing sites and comforted several injured people. “Those who are trying to tarnish Bangladesh’s image at home and abroad are supporting such acts of violence,” she said.