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Probe ordered into Bangladesh blast

Shamim Osman injured
Home Minister Mohammad Nasim comforts injured lawmaker Shamim Osman  


NARAYANGANJ, Bangladesh -- A bloody weekend bomb blast that killed at least 22 people has triggered an investigation as Bangladesh enters the lead-up to an election campaign.

Accusations flew after the explosion ripped a party rally injuring more than 100 during a speech Saturday evening in Narayanganj, 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

The violence was condemned by Jatiya Sangsad, or parliament, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blamed the blast on "the conspirators who want to create political instability to destroy democracy."

"I call upon the nation to resist this type of political terrorism for the sake of democracy," Hasina said in a speech before parliament.

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Fourteen people died instantly as the blast ripped the Narayanganj office of Hasina's Awami League party. Eight more died in hospital or while trying to get there, doctors and police said.

Among the dead were four women, including a mother and her son, a senior police officer said.

"This is a heinous attack and we have ordered an investigation to find the culprits," Home Minister Mohammad Nasim told reporters after visiting the scene in Narayanganj.

More than 300 activists of the Awami League Party were crammed inside a small auditorium in the party's office when the bomb went off, Reuters reported.

At least 100 people were injured in the explosion, police said. Among them was prominent lawmaker Shamim Osman, who was making a speech at the time.

Osman suffered hand and leg wounds. He and 11 others have been operated upon at Dhaka's Combined Military Hospital.

Police detained a man at the explosion site, but only identified him by one name, Liton, without providing any other details.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack and police did not say if there were any suspects. Hasina has blamed previous attacks on Islamic fundamentalists.

Political rivalries in this poor South Asian nation are intense and violence often erupts ahead of elections. Street fights between rival activists and bomb attacks are common during campaigns.

General elections are scheduled for October.

The blast turned the tin-roof, single-story building into a wreck of twisted iron rods and cement.

The floor and walls of the auditorium were splattered with blood, and severed limbs littered the floor, eyewitnesses said.

"I was jolted out of my bed. The entire neighborhood was shaking," said Mariam Aktar, a housewife living near the building.

Anxious relatives gathered at hospitals to search for their loved ones. Many wept and threw themselves on the bodies that were lined up, waiting to be claimed in two state-run hospitals in Narayanganj and Dhaka.

Hundreds of Awami League activists took to the streets in protest against the worst bombing in recent years.

On Friday, an explosion was averted when police recovered two bombs from an auditorium in the southeastern city of Chittagong, hours before a concert was to begin.

At least 60 people have been killed in 10 bomb attacks in the past two years, according to police.

These include 10 deaths in an explosion at a concert in Dhaka on April 14.

Another 10 people were killed this month in a rare bombing of a Roman Catholic church in the southwestern Gopalganj district.

Reuters contributed to this report.





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