Bangladesh police on Wednesday hunted members of a militant group accused in suicide bomb attacks at courthouses in two cities that killed 10 people and injured 66, and arrested seven suspects who they said were assigned to carry out similar attacks. The prime minister called the culprits terrorists and vowed to crush them. Police blamed the outlawed Islamic militant group Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh for Tuesday's attacks in the port city of Chittagong and in Gazipur, a town outside the capital, Dhaka.
The group, which wants to establish harsh Islamic laws in Bangladesh, has been accused of targeting judges and lawyers in a series of bomb attacks this year. About 5,000 people on Wednesday attended funeral prayers for a lawyer killed in the Gazipur blast, local journalist Iqbal Ahmed Sarker told The Associated Press.
No arrests have been made in Chittgaong or Gazipur since the attack, but police detained seven people suspected of belonging to the banned group in four other districts. Police said the suspects were believed to have been assigned to carry out similar attacks in their districts.
Police say the banned group has trained hundreds of its members as suicide bombers, including some who received instructions in Afghanistan. A lawyers association and 14 political parties, led by the main opposition Awami League, called for a nationwide strike Thursday to protest the bombings and demand improved security.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia called the bombers "enemies of the nation, Islam and democracy" and branded them "terrorists and murderers," vowing to crush them, state-run Bangladesh Television reported Tuesday.
Three bombs went off just outside the Chittagong courthouse, killing a suspected suicide bomber and two police officers, police official Mosharraf Hossain said.
Sixteen people, including a second suspected bomber, were injured in the Chittagong blasts, said Habibur Rahman, a doctor at state-run Chittagong Medical College Hospital, 220 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of Dhaka.
Hossain said the first blast occurred when police scuffled with a suspected bomber at the courthouse gate. The second suspected bomber then detonated two more bombs, he said. That suspect survived but his two legs were amputated and his condition was deteriorating on Wednesday, said a hospital doctor in Chittagong, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.
In Gazipur, three people, including the alleged bomber, were killed instantly when a powerful bomb went off inside the Bar Library near a courthouse, said area police chief Atiqul Islam. Four others, including two lawyers, later succumbed to their injuries, officials and news reports said.
The explosion at Gazipur, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Dhaka, injured at least 50 people, Islam said. "I suddenly heard a big bang, and seconds later I found myself on the floor with a pool of blood and body parts around me," Anwar Fakir, a lawyer with severe burn injuries from the blast, said from his hospital bed. "It was just terrible, " reports the AP. I.L.