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Movie Theater Bomb Blasts Kill 17 in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, at least 17 people have been killed and 200 others injured in a series of bomb explosions at crowded movie theaters Saturday. Following the blasts police have arrested four opposition activist on Sunday, inclduing Saber Hassain Chowdhury, a top aide to former Prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

Police say the bombs exploded at intervals of five-to-10 minutes at four movie theaters in the quiet tourist town of Mymensingh, more than 100 kilometers north of the capital, Dhaka. The first blast occurred as people were coming out of a theater at the end of a show, the others took place as people sat inside watching the films.

The buildings were packed with families celebrating a three-day holiday to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival. Witnesses say people ran out of the theaters screaming for help. Many people were seriously injured. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.

This is the second time this year that Bangladesh has had to cope with bomb blasts. In September, more than 100 people were injured in bomb explosions at a movie theater and a circus in a district town (Satkhira) south of Dhaka.

Police have launched an investigation into the latest blasts. Security has been tightened in the town of Mymensingh. Troops have cordoned off the buildings where the explosions took place. A nationwide security alert has been sounded. Officials say no one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts.

India's foreign minister (Yashwant Sinha) recently alleged that some al-Qaida members have taken shelter in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation. Dhaka has strongly denied the accusation, saying New Delhi has provided no evidence to back its claims.

India and Bangladesh share a common border.