Fear of Islamic state in Bangladesh grows after bombers target courts

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The Independent Online

At least nine people have been killed in what are believed to be co-ordinated suicide bombings in Bangladesh, the latest sign that the country is facing a growing threat from militants who want to establish a Taliban-style Islamic state.

The attacks, the most recent of a series of bombings in Bangladesh over the past year, both appeared to target the state's most prestigious law courts. In the first, just after 9am local time yesterday, three people were killed in two explosions at a checkpoint outside a court building in the southern city of Chittagong. Police said they believed one of the dead was a suicide bomber.

In the second attack, moments later, a more powerful bomb went off inside the bar library at a court building in Gazipur, north of the capital Dhaka, killing a further six people.

"I suddenly heard a big bang, and seconds later I found myself on the floor with a pool of blood and body parts around me," said Anwar Fakir, a lawyer who sustained severe burn injuries in the blast at Gazipur. "It was just terrible. I can't explain."

Although there was no claim of responsibility for the attacks, police said they suspect Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, an Islamic militant group that has claimed responsibility for attacks in Bangladesh in the past. Handwritten leaflets from the group were found at the site of the Chittagong blasts, according to police. A note found on one of the suspected bombers warned police, judges and lawyers to "stop upholding man-made laws which go against Islam", Mohammed Majedul Haq of the Chittagong police said.

Yesterday's attacks come after two judges were killed when a bomb was thrown at their car earlier this month, and five bombs went off at court buildings in Dhaka in October. In August, more than 500 small bombs were set off across Bangladesh, killing two people in what was seen as a warning of further violence to come.

What will particularly concern the outside world are accusations from the main opposition party that the Bangladeshi government is covering up the Islamic militant threat because two junior partners in the governing coalition have links to the militants.

Until February this year, when it finally accepted there was a problem, the government had dismissed reports of militants inside the country as fabrications - although there had already been a series of bomb attacks, including one on the British high commissioner.

The opposition Awami League has accused the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami Oikya Jote, both junior partners in Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia's government, of links to the militants. The Islami Oikya Jote has been quite open about its support for Islamic militancy and the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the Jamaat, which projects itself as more moderate, has denied any links.

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