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Crude bomb explodes outside President Pranab's hotel in Dhaka

Last updated on: March 04, 2013 17:01 IST

A low intensity crude cocktail bomb exploded on Monday outside a hotel in Dhaka, where President Pranab Mukherjee is staying, during a general strike in Bangladesh called by fundamentalist Jamaat-Islami to protest the conviction of three of its top leaders for 1971 war crimes.

Mukherjee was inside the Sonargaon Pan-Pacific hotel when the incident took place around 2 PM at SAARC Fountain, about 100 yards away from the hotel in central Dhaka, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Tejgaon Police Station Chowdhury Manzurul Kabir told Indian journalists.

Apoorva Hassan, the officer in-charge of Tejgaon police station, said two persons came on a motorcycle and hurled the bomb wrapped in a cap near the SAARC fountain.

Kabir said there was no casualty in the incident.

He said there was no security threat to the President and the "cracker explosion" was just an attempt to enforce the 48-hour strike which entered the second day on Monday.

Biplob Sarker, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Tejgaon), said Mukherjee's wife Suvra was at Gonobhaban, the official residence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during the blast.

Shortly before the explosion, Mukherjee returned to the hotel after accepting an honorary law degree from DhakaUniversity and visiting the Bangabandhu SheikhMujiburRahmanMuseum in Dhanmondi in central part of the Bangladesh capital.

Security has been further beefed up around the hotel.

Kabir said law enforcers could not arrest anyone in connection with the incident but "we are trying to arrest the miscreants".

He said, "it was a simple cracker explosion and there is nothing to worry". Such crackers are sometimes set off to enforce strikes in Bangladesh, Kabir added.

Asked about the security arrangement at the hotel, Sarker said the hotel where President Mukherjee is staying was secured properly.

Indian security officials sought to play down the explosion.

In a statement, President Mukherjee's Press Secretary Venu Rajamony said: "Bangladesh authorities have informed that about an hour back a crude cocktail was found and they are investigating into the matter".

"Indian security officials have expressed the view that this was a minor explosion", the statement said, adding that "bursting of such cocktails are common in Bangladesh during hartals and cannot be described as a bomb".

It said, "life in and around the Hotel in Dhaka, where the President is staying, is completely normal. None of the delegation members heard any explosion not knew of any such incident."

The attack came on the second day of a two-day strike called by Jamaat after sentencing of its three top leaders by International Crimes Tribunal.

Another shutdown has been called by the fundamentalist outfit's alliance partner and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Khaleda Zia on the last day of the visit by Mukherjee on Tuesday.

At least 80 people have been killed so far in Bangladesh in clashes that have rocked the nation since the conviction.

Violence in the country escalated on Thursday when the Tribunal handed down death penalty to 73-year-old Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the Jamaat.

Sayedee was the third JI politician to be convicted by the Tribunal since the trial of war crimes suspects, mostly belonging to the Islamist group, began three years ago.

In the first verdict of the tribunal on January 21, former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad was sentenced to death on similar charges.

Another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah was sentenced to life in February for atrocities during the war.

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