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Violent Protests Follow Bangladesh Grenade Attack - 2004-08-22


Angry protests broke out in Bangladesh today (Sunday) in reaction to a grenade attack that killed nearly 20 people at a political rally by the country's main opposition movement.

Mobs hijacked and burned a passenger train heading for Dhaka, the capital, and ransacked a railway station in the port city of Chittagong. Train service was suspended on the country's main rail line. At least 20 people were injured in the town of Bhairab, where the train was commandeered. Riot police drove the protesters off with tear gas.

Violent outbursts and protest strikes broke out in cities and towns across Bangladesh -- all in reaction to the grenade attack Saturday at an Awami League rally. The president of the opposition bloc, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, escaped with minor injuries, but at least 18 people died and more than 100 were wounded.

Witnesses said multiple explosions -- anywhere from seven to 13 grenades --went off almost simultaneously, just after Sheikh Hasina had finished addressing the rally. Party officials say bodyguards rushed Sheikh Hasina into a protected car seconds before it was sprayed with bullets by gunmen.

Reports from Dhaka today say police have detained a number of suspects.

The Awami League has called for a nationwide general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the attack, but many shops, schools and offices are closed already. Sunday is a working day in Bangladesh, whose population is mainly Muslim.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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