Blasts kill one at Hossaini Dalan

87 more injured as Shia headquarters attacked just before the Shia procession
The victims, who suffered wounds in the blast in Old Dhaka, are undergoing treatment at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital. Photo: Shaheen Mollah

At least one person was killed and about 87 others were injured in homemade bomb explosions in front of Hossaini Dalan in old Dhaka early hours today.

The blasts happened around 1:30am when members of Shia community were gathering at the building, about half an hour before the traditional Tajia procession was to be brought out from there to mark the holy Ashura.

The day marks the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA), and the Shia community has been observing the day for centuries. But it is the first time that they have come under such an attack, though it was not clear who carried out the attack or why.

The attack came hours after a suicide bombing at a Shia Muslim mosque in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan killed at least 10 people including six children. Baluchistan has been wracked by separatist violence and rising sectarianism for almost a decade.

The historic differences of opinion between the Shias and the Sunnis caused divisions and attacks on the rivals in different places. In Iraq, attack on Shia’s marked a sharp rise since the fall of Saddam Hussein, who was the leader of Sunni Ba’ath Party.

Fears of violence have been heightened this year after Taliban splinter groups pledged allegiance to the Syria- and Iraq-based Islamic State, which has repeatedly targeted Shias. Analysts say Pakistani groups hoping for patronage want to impress Islamic State.

A large number of people of the Shia community gather at the Huseni Dalan in the capital's Bakshi Bazar yesterday hours before the blasts. The mourning procession is organised every year to mark the day of holy Ashura. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

Police cordoned off Huseni Dalan and said they were investigating the blasts.

The dead is Sajjad Hossain Saju, 14, said Nazimunnesa, deputy director of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. She said the boy was brought dead to the hospital.

Most of the victims were men, but some of them women. Their injuries were said to be minor and their condition stable.

Locals and law enforcement agencies rushed the wounded to the DMCH, where the emergency unit was heavy with cries of relatives.

Additional doctors and nurses were called in to cope with the situation.

Nasrin Sultana, an official of Lalbagh Fire Service and Civil Defence, said unknown criminals charged several cocktails when members of the Shia community were taking their final preparations to bring out the mourning procession to Mohammadpur. She was leading the rescue team.

In a Somoy TV report, people were seen running frantically about the blast scene. Numerous flip-flops and sandals were scattered around and many of the injured, including a young woman, were seen being carried to microbuses or other vehicles.

The report also showed there were a few unexploded cocktails left on the ground.

Rab Additional Director General Col Ziaul Ahsan said they were examining the evidence collected from the scene.

"We think these blasts were done to create a chaotic situation in the country," he said.

A supervisor of the Hossaini Dalan said, "We've been observing this occasion here for ages. But we've never seen any incident like this. We demand a quick and fair investigation into the blasts."

During the first 10 days of Muharram, Hossaini Dalan becomes a centre of mourning and religious gathering in old Dhaka. Shia followers end the festival by bringing out a large procession that parades through the city streets.

On this day in the Hijri year of 61, Hazrat Imam, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), along with his family members and 72 followers embraced martyrdom in the hands of soldiers of Yazid at Karbala desert.

The day is a public holiday in Bangladesh.

President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday issued separate messages on the occasion.

In his message, the president said holy Ashura is a significant as well as a day of mourning for the Muslim Ummah for establishing truth and justice.

“On this day, I wish unity, solidarity and continuous development of the Muslim Ummah along with establishment of a society based on justice and equality,” he added.

The PM in her message said Ahsura is a very significant day in the history of mankind. She urged all to reflect the teachings of holy Asura in establishing truth and justice in the national life.


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