Mass exodus began from Bangladesh's capital

Thousands of holiday-makers began a mass exodus Wednesday from Bangladesh's crowded capital for their home villages ahead of the Islamic world's largest festival. After a month of fasting, the Muslim-majority nation of 140 million was waiting to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr either on Friday or Saturday, depending on the sighting of the moon.

About 6 million of Dhaka's 10 million population will go to rural areas to celebrate the festival with relatives, said Abdur Rahman, a spokesman for the Dhaka City Corporation. "I am excited. I have got my paycheck and bought new clothes for my family," said garment worker Mosharraf Hossain, who planned to leave Dhaka later Wednesday.

But the government canceled Eid vacations for police to ensure extra security across Bangladesh ahead of a summit of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, on Nov.12-13, police said.

About 30,000 security personnel will be deployed during the SAARC summit in and around the capital, police said.

SAARC groups Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.

The summit originally was scheduled to be held in January, but was put off until February because of the Dec. 26 tsunami that hit three member states. It was postponed again after India refused to attend because of the political situation in Nepal, where King Gyanendra seized absolute power on Feb. 1.

Under SAARC's charter, a summit cannot be held if the leader of a member state fails to attend. The grouping was set up in 1985 to promote economic cooperation and improve relations in the region, reports the AP. I.L.

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