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'Minor' explosion outside Mukherjee hotel; officials play down incident

Minor explosion outside Mukherjee hotel; officials play down incident

Dhaka: A "minor explosion" took place outside the hotel in which visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is staying in downtown Dhaka, hit by mass upsurge and clashes that have resulted in dozens of deaths, but Indian officials said "none of the delegation members heard any explosion nor knew of any such incident".

Police later said it was a firecracker and that the incident had been blown up by the media.

Reports of the incident created somewhat of a flutter among the members of the Indian delegation but both Indian and Bangladesh officials played down the incident and said "life was normal".

In a statement, Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the Indian president, said that "life in and around the hotel in Dhaka where the president is staying is completely normal. None of the delegation members heard any explosion nor knew of any such incident."

"The Bangladesh authorities informed the Indian delegation of the crude cocktail that was found and a probe is on," the statement said.

"Indian security officials have expressed the view that this was a minor explosion. Bursting of such cocktails are common in Bangladesh during hartals and cannot be described as a bomb," the statement said.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police official Chowdhury Mozurul Kabir told Indian newspersons that it was a "small (fire) cracker", aimed to create panic and enforce the hartal.

"It was a small cracker. The explosion took place at 2 p.m., on the middle of the road away from the hotel," said Kabir.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has called a two-day strike from Sunday to protest the death sentence to Jamaat chief Delwar Hossain Sayedee for the 1971 war crimes, including rape and genocide. Over 70 people have been killed in clashes since the Thursday sentence handed down by a war crimes tribunal

Three more people in fresh clashes in Shatkheera and in Sirazganj by protesting Jamaat members Monday, taking the toll since last Thursday to over 70.

The incident comes a day after opposition leader Khaleda Zia, in an apparent snub, called off a meeting with Mukherjee. The Bangladesh National Party chief and former chief minister was to meet Mukherjee Monday evening.

She had met him last year during her India visit. Her party is in alliance with the Jamaat.

Earlier there were reports that a small cocktail bomb was flung by two
motorcycle borne men outside the hotel. Mukherjee had returned for lunch to the hotel after the convocation ceremony at the Dhaka University where authorities described him as "the first Bengali president of India" and conferred on him a doctorate of law degree.


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