DHAKA, Bangladesh – Unidentified attackers threw home-made bombs early Saturday at thousands of Shiite Muslims gathered for a traditional procession in Bangladesh’s capital, leaving one dead and more than 100 injured, police said.
Police say the incident took place at Huseni Dalan, an important 17th century center of learning for the minority Shiite community, where 25,000 people had gathered in the old part of Dhaka.
Local police chief Aziz Ahmed said a 12-year-old boy died, and that many of the injured were being treated at local hospitals.
Nobody claimed the responsibility for the attacks. At least five bombs were thrown, police said. Three exploded and two were recovered.
Police arrested two suspects from the scene immediately after the blasts and were questioning them, said Ahmed.
“Given the nature of attacks, I think this has been done to create chaos in the country. It is sabotage,” said Dhaka’s senior police official Asaduzzamn Mia. “But it is clear that it was a planned attack.”
Shiite Muslims are a minority in the Sunni-dominated country, but they are generally not discriminated against. Attacks against Shiites are virtually unheard of. The procession was to commemorate Ashoura, a 10-day ritual when Shiites mark the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
“This is unprecedented. We have been observing this for ages but we never faced anything like this,” Feroz Hossain, the curator of the building, told reporters.
He said about 25,000 people including women and children had gathered there around 2 a.m. to start the procession that usually marched through major city streets.
Col. Ziaul Ahsan, a senior official of the special anti-crime agency Rapid Action Battalion, said they were collecting evidence and an expert team from the police criminal investigation department was examining the scene. Police would also study closed-circuit TV camera footage that had been installed in and around the shrine, he said.
Nazimun Nesa, a doctor at the state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said the 12-year-old boy died from shrapnel wounds before he reached the hospital.
“The condition of most of the injured is stable as most have suffered from minor injuries,” she said.