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Bangladeshi Police Detain Several in Wake of Saturday's Bomb Blasts - 2002-12-08

In Bangladesh, police have detained several people including opposition activists following a series of bomb blasts that killed at least 17 people and wounded nearly 200 others on Saturday. But the government has ordered an investigation to find those responsible for the blasts.

Police said the opposition Awami League politicians who have been taken into custody include Sabir Hossain Choudhury, a senior aide of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Two pro-opposition intellectuals, Shahriar Kabir and Muntasir Mamun, have also been detained following early morning raids in their homes.

In addition, several people including some students were arrested in Mymesingh town, where the bombs ripped almost simultaneoulsy through four crowded movie theaters on Saturday. The town lies more than 100 kilometers north of the capital Dhaka.

It is unclear whether the string of arrests is directly linked to the bomb blasts.

Police officials say opposition activists and other people have been taken into custody for what they called "suspicious activities".

Government officials have said that terror groups or opposition party activists trying to destabilize the government could be behind the deadly blasts.

Bangladesh's ruling party, the Bangladesh National Party, and the opposition party have a history of bitter relations.

Police say the attacks were well-planned and calcuated to cause maximum damage. The cinema halls were packed with people celebrating the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival when the bombs exploded.

Doctors treating the injured people said the bombs appear to have been left on the floors of the cinema halls. Zia Hid Hossain is a doctor at a hospital in Mymensingh town. "Most of the injured patients have lost their legs, both legs, and that is one of the major cause of deaths," he said. Residents of the usually quiet town are shocked by the bombings. Troops are guarding the site of the blasts and other key installations in the town.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said she is saddened by the bombings. The government has ordered an investigation.

In recent weeks, the Indian government and some media reports have alleged that al-Qaida terrorists are operating in Bangladesh. The government has denied the charge and says it is committed to fighting terrorism. Bangladesh is the world's third most populous Muslim nation.