Moments of shock | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 21, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 21, 2010

Moments of shock

A series of deadly grenade explosions shook downtown Dhaka just as Awami League President Sheikh Hasina was wrapping her party rally at 5:22pm on this day in 2004, in front of the party's central office on Bangabandhu Avenue.
The first grenade exploded when she was urging the 25,000 ralliers to start marching protesting a recent grenade attack in Sylhet, with a call to oust the then BNP-Jamaat four-party coalition government that "encourages bomb attacks", recalled AL leader Sultan Mohammad Mansur Ahmed, who was among the wounded on that fateful afternoon.
"Within a second of the first blast, I understood it was a grenade attack," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
As the grenades kept raining, Hasina, now the prime minister of the country, ducked on the flatbed truck from where she was addressing the rally, and many of the senior AL leaders created a human shield over her. The grenades kept missing the truck, and were landing on the sides.
The AL chief, who was the apparent target of the attack carried out from rooftops around the party's headquarters, miraculously escaped unscathed shielded by her party colleagues.
"As the second blast occurred, we all started running to save our lives," said Sultan Mansur adding that the entire AL central leadership and other key leaders were present there.
After the third grenade missed Hasina, she was quickly moved into her sports utility vehicle (SUV), and her body guards started firing blanks to clear the way for the vehicle to get out of there through thick smoke.
The unknown assailants fired seven bullets at the bulletproof SUV. A bullet punctured the rear wheel of the vehicle, and later a large hole was found on the right side of the rear windshield.
The front windshield prevented three bullets from hitting the front seat passenger Hasina.
The attack killed 24 people and wounded more than 500, a majority of whom are AL leaders and workers.
The attackers later fired on fleeing ralliers and pedestrians as well.
The wounded lay bleeding on the street, some profusely. It was a ghastly scene of disjointed limbs and blood, accompanied by heartbreaking screams of pain.
Interestingly enough, the armed police on duty at the site, ran away for cover during the attack, instead of launching a counter attack or ensuring the safety of the large number of vulnerable people.
About 20 minutes later, some people re-gathered at the spot. But they were too shocked to know what to do. They sat by the dead and wounded, and cried. Some others brought in microbuses, rickshaw-vans and minibuses to pick up the victims and take them to hospitals.
But police descended on the rescuers with clubs, and started beating them indiscriminately, delaying the rescue further.
At 6:27pm, another grenade exploded with a big bang in the alleyway opposite the AL office. Soon after, Bangabandhu Avenue became almost deserted as two more live grenades were found lying amid shoes and sandals strewn in the area.
A 35-member army team exploded the two grenades, one in front of the AL headquarters, and the other in Osmani Udyan after finding it at Rony Sari Bitan in the Railway Supermarket.
People whose lives were claimed by the attack on that afternoon are Ivy Rahman, Moshtak Ahmed Sentu, Lance Corporal (retd) Mahbubur Rashid, Rafiqul Islam alias Ada Chacha, Sufia Begum, Hasina Momtaz Rina, Liton Munshi alias Litu, Ratan Sikder, Mohammad Hanif, Mamun Mridha, Belal Hossain, Aminul Islam alias Moazzem, Abdul Kuddus Patwari, Atik Sarker, Nasiruddin Sarder, Rezia Begum, Abul Kashem, Zahed Ali, Momin Ali, Shamsuddin, Abul Kalam Azad, Ishak Mia, and unidentified two others.

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