Thousands of devotees have thronged the bank of the Turag in Tongi of Gazipur as the second phase of Biswa Ijtema, the second largest Muslim congregation after Hajj, began there this morning amid tight security.
The Ijtema venue, around 20-kilometres off the capital, turned into a human sea during the Juma prayers with rows of worshippers on the 160-acre ground.
Organised by Tabligh Jamaat, the Ijtema started after Fazr prayers with religious sermon by Pakistani Islamic scholar Maulana Jamshed.
Breaking the decades-old tradition, this year for the third time the rituals is being performed in two phases to ensure better management and security. The first phase of Ijtema, beginning from last Friday, ended on Sunday.
After Maulana Jamshed finished at 10:30am, the devotees discussed the sermon.
Meanwhile, five people died on Ijtema venue since last night, said Ismail Hossan, officer-in-charge of Tongi Police Station.
Other deceased --Tojam Sardar, 80, of Magura, Abdul Latif, 75, of Comilla, Nur-e-Alam, 65, of Noakhali and Abdur Rob Sheikh, 70, -- died of cardiac arrest and old age complications between 10:00pm yesterday to 10:00am today, said Mahbubur Rahman Chowdhury, resident medical officer of Tongi Upazila Health Complex.
A five-layer security system by 10,000 uniformed and plainclothes policemen and members of Rab and intelligence agencies are in place at the Ijtema ground to ensure smooth holding of the congregation.