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Prominent Islamic Cleric Among Those Detained in Bangladesh Bombings


Police in Bangladesh have detained a prominent Islamic leader in connection with the wave of bombings that hit the country last week. Police say Moulana Fariduddin Masud, 60, was taken off a Dubai-bound flight at Dhaka's international airport late Monday.

They are interrogating him about the almost simultaneous explosions from more than 430 crude bombs that ripped through towns and cities across the country last week.

The authorities said the attacks seemed aimed at spreading panic rather than causing major damage, but two people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

The detained cleric established several Islamic charity organizations after he quit as director of the country's state-run Islamic Foundation four years ago. Police suspect these organizations may have links to a banned group that has been named as the prime suspect in the blasts, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin.

Leaflets found at some places where the blasts occurred bore the group's name, and warned of "direct action" if the government fails to establish Islamic rule in the predominantly Muslim country, which is governed by secular laws.

A security analyst in Dhaka, former Brigadier General Sakhawat Hossain, said the police are not sure the bombers are still in Bangladesh.

"So far as the law enforcing agencies are concerned, there seems to be a bit of seriousness about getting hold of as many people as they could and get[ting] into the important personalities," he said. "The doubt is whether they are within the country."

Police say they are also searching for the head of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Sheikh Abdur Rehman, who they believe masterminded the attacks. There is speculation that he, too, may have left the country.

Officials say they have arrested 150 people after nationwide searches that included raids on many Islamic seminaries, or madrassas. Most of those arrested are suspected of planting bombs.

Last week's bombings were the latest in a series of bomb and grenade attacks that have targeted Muslim shrines, movie houses and political rallies in Bangladesh in the last two years.

The new bombings prompted demands from across the country that the government crack down on Islamic extremism.

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