Suspected militants carrying bombs and machetes launched another deadly attack in Bangladesh on Thursday, killing at least three people at a huge prayer rally marking the start of Eid.
Days after a mass murder of hostages in Dhaka, authorities said two policemen and a civilian were killed in explosions and gunfire near a prayer ground in the northern Kishoreganj district.
One of the attackers was also shot dead and four of his suspected accomplices were arrested after hand bombs were hurled at police manning a checkpoint just outside the main prayer ground.
“Two policemen, an attacker and a woman who was shot during the [subsequent] gunfight were killed,” national police spokesman AKM Shahidur Rahman said. “Nine policemen were also injured. They are in a critical condition and have been shifted to a military hospital in Dhaka.”
Weapons recovered from the scene of the attack, close to where a quarter million people had been taking part in Eid prayers, included a pistol and machete.
The prayer gathering in Kishoreganj is by far the biggest such congregation in Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim country that is home to around 160 million people.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came less than a week after Islamists killed 20 hostages and two policemen in an overnight siege at a Western-style cafe in the capital Dhaka. Many of the victims, who included 18 foreigners, were hacked to death with machetes.
Bangladesh has been on heightened alert in the wake of the killings last Friday night and many Eid services included pleas from religious leaders for an end to the violence.
The cleric who led the Kishoreganj prayer, Maolana Farid Uddin Masuod, has been an outspoken critic of a recent wave of attacks by extremists and he again strongly condemned the Thursday’s killings.