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UK envoy hurt in Bangladesh blast

Two men have been killed and nearly 50 people injured, among them Britain's ambassador to Bangladesh, in a powerful bomb explosion at a shrine to a Muslim saint in the town of Sylhet.

Last Modified: 21 May 2004 17:27 GMT
Anwar Choudhury is a British citizen of Bangladeshi descent

Two men have been killed and nearly 50 people injured, among them Britain's ambassador to Bangladesh, in a powerful bomb explosion at a shrine to a Muslim saint in the town of Sylhet.

British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury and his bodyguard were participating in noon prayers on Friday at the Hazrat Shahjalal shrine in the northeastern town when the bomb went off, a police officer told Reuters by telephone. 

It was the second blast at the shrine this year, following an explosion in January that killed three people. District officials said they had no immediate idea who caused Friday's blast. 

"We still do not have any clear suspect but surely someone used the device with ulterior motives," said Sardar Rakibul Islam, additional superintendent of police in Sylhet, a town of 2.5 million people. "We are investigating." 

'A hell of a scene'

Torn slippers, shoes, caps and blood-stained shirts littered the exit of the shrine, where the bomb exploded as prayers were ending, local reporters said. Shrine officials and devotees were still shattered from the events, they added. 

It was the second blast at the
shrine this year

Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia said she was deeply shocked and called the blast a heinous act of violence. She urged officials to immediately find and punish those involved. 

In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "I am deeply shocked by news of this bomb and I extend my sympathies to all the victims and their families." 

Authorities have ordered paramilitary soldiers to fan out and guard Sylhet, from which come most of the Bangladeshis who live in Britain.

"This is a hell of a scene with dozens of injured lying in the emergency ward and on the corridors," said a reporter at the nearby Sylhet Medical College Hospital. 

'Not serious'

About 50 injured people were taken to the hospital, said Doctor Abdus Salam, in the hospital's emergency ward. 

"The high commissioner is being treated for splinters in his legs below the knees but his condition is not serious," Salam told Reuters. 

"I am deeply shocked by news of this bomb and I extend my sympathies to all the victims and their families" 

Jack Straw,
British Foreign Secretary

Police and reporters said one person had died on the way to the hospital. Police said they believed the bomb had been carried in by someone attending the prayers.

But a shrine official said the bomb might have been thrown into the compound from outside. 

Choudhury, who took up his post in Bangladesh only last week, is a British citizen of Bangladeshi descent. His family hails from Sunamganj, a district neighbouring Sylhet. 

A High Commission press officer accompanying Choudhury also confirmed that the envoy had been slightly injured. 

The High Commission is closed for the Friday holiday. Investigations into the January blast at the shrine, which also injured about 50 people, have yet to be completed.

Source:
Reuters
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