Authorities hunt attackers after Bangladesh bomb blasts

Police and security experts on Wednesday said Bangladesh is unprepared for suicide attacks by Islamic militants, as investigators hunted for members of a militant group accused of a series of bomb attacks on courthouses. Ten people were killed and 66 others injured Tuesday when suicide bombers set off powerful blasts at courthouses in the southern port city of Chittagong and in Gazipur, a town outside the capital, Dhaka.

"We are not prepared at all to tackle suicide bombers," Shakhawat Hossain, a retired Bangladeshi army commander, was quoted as saying by Dhaka's New Age newspaper. "We must keep in mind that the terrorists use sophisticated tactics."

Bangladesh has been hit by a string of bombings this year, but authorities said Tuesday's blasts appeared to be the most powerful, indicating that the attacks were becoming more deadly.

The blasts have been blamed on Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a banned militant group that seeks to establish harsh Islamic rule in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which is governed by secular laws. The group has accused judges and lawyers of following secular laws instead of Islamic Sharia rule. "The latest blasts have been suicide attacks, and the world has yet to come up with an effective strategy to deal with such attacks," Bangladesh police chief Abdul Quayyum told reporters Wednesday.

Police say the banned group has trained hundreds of its members as suicide bombers, including some who received instruction in Afghanistan.

"This is a new situation for us and we don't know how to combat suicide bombings," said a senior police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment publicly. In a speech Tuesday, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia called the culprits terrorists and vowed to crush them.

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, reports the AP. I.L.

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