DHAKA: In just a week after the country's deadliest attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery that saw the death of 28 patrons, suspected Islamists carried out yet another deadly attack at Bangladesh's biggest prayer service for the start of Eid.
Explosions and gunfire marred the Sholakia Eid prayers, a prayer ground in Kishoreganj district where at least 25,000 people were participating a Ramadan gathering. "Two policemen, an attacker, and a woman who was shot during the gunfight were killed," said national police spokesman AKM Shahidur Rahman. "Nine policemen were also injured." Another official said a group of at least three attackers had hurled hand bombs at police manning a checkpoint outside the main prayer ground.
Given the recent spate of events, nearly 1,000 police officers were stationed at the gathering the time the attack was carried out. "We responded with gunfire. A gunfight ensued and they fired back and threw more hand bombs," said Tofazzal Hosain, the district's deputy police chief. While two attackers were arrested, a pistol and a machete were also recovered from the site.
Bangladesh's Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the latest attack was designed to topple Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government. "We don't know which group they belong to but they are suspected members of extremist terrorist group. They are against the normal religious practices of the country. They are anti-Islam, anti-religion, and anti-government. They have a political as well as a religious agenda," he said.
The region is quite versed in extremist-attacks and its growing wave since last year. With Hasina's government being in denial of international jihadist organisations gaining a foothold in the region, critics claim she is trying to exploit the attacks to demonise her domestic political opponents.