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 Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 16:52 GMT
Bangladesh probes cinema blasts
Supporters of the opposition Awami League in Dhaka held back by police, 9 December
Opposition supporters clashed with police in Dhaka
A judicial inquiry has begun in Bangladesh into bomb explosions in four packed cinemas which killed at least 18 people.

Dozens more were hurt in the almost simultaneous blasts in the northern town of Mymensingh last Saturday.

Map showing Mymensingh
Sultan Hossain Khan, a retired Supreme Court judge, has been inspecting the cinemas and collecting statements from eyewitnesses, survivors and employees.

Nobody has so far said they planted the bombs, but police detained more than 20 people for questioning.

Justice Khan said the bombings appeared to have been the work of a well-organised and well-trained group.


At least 40 people were taken to hospital in critical condition after the attacks in Mymensingh, 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka.

Injured man in Bangladesh bomb blast
Dozens of people were injured in the attacks
Security has been increased across the country following the attacks.

The opposition Awami League has accused ministers of using the bomb blasts as an excuse to round up and silence its key members.

Those detained include Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the political secretary to the opposition leader, former industries minister Tofail Ahmed and the Awami League's district chief for Mymensingh.

Several pro-opposition intellectuals were also arrested.

The government says that most of those being held are suspected of anti-state activities. It has been conducting a huge anti-crime drive since mid-October.

Reuters row

Among those detained since the cinema attacks is a freelance journalist who works for Reuters news agency.

Enamul Haque Chowdhury was detained two days ago for allegedly misquoting the Bangladesh Home Minister, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury.

The minister was reported to have suggested al-Qaeda might be to blame for the bombings, but has since denied any such remark.

He is taking legal action against Reuters, which withdrew several stories containing his alleged comments and has sent a senior executive to try to sort out the matter.

Police accuse the journalist of "tarnishing the country's image".

Correspondents say Bangladesh is increasingly sensitive about press coverage following reports that it has become a base for Islamic extremists.

See also:

09 Dec 02 | South Asia
08 Dec 02 | South Asia
16 Oct 02 | South Asia
29 Sep 02 | South Asia
29 Sep 02 | South Asia
24 Oct 02 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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