A man drove a bicycle into a crowd of Bangladeshis gawking at a defused bomb and blew himself up, killing six other people and wounding dozens, police and witnesses said Thursday. An alleged second bomber that authorities believe failed to detonate his explosives was among the wounded, said police officials on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Authorities quickly deployed police and soldiers throughout the town of Netrokona, and police officials blamed the attack on Jumatul Mujahidden Bangladesh, a banned Islamic militant group blamed for a string of recent blasts in the South Asian country that have killed 21 people in the last two weeks alone, including the seven fatalities in the latest blast.
The suspected second bomber was under police guard in a hospital, they added, not saying if he had been questioned. The blasts in Netrokona, 128 kilometers (80 miles) north of Dhaka, occurred about an hour after authorities defused another bomb in the same area, the officials said. Four people, including the bomber, were killed at the scene of the explosion and two died of their injuries on the way to hospitals, police said. A seventh victim died in hospital.
At least 45 people, including nine police and the second suspected bomber, were injured, and many were taken to a state-run hospital in the neighboring town of Mymensingh.
Witnesses reported seeing many injured being taken to hospitals with legs or hands torn apart, raising fears the death toll in the blast could rise.
Rezaul Hossain Sumon, a 20-year-old college student who suffered shrapnel wounds all over his body from the blast, told The Associated Press from his bed at the Mymensingh hospital that when the blast happened, about 400 people were gathered on the street hoping to catch a glimpse of the bomb police had just defused. He said he saw a man on a bicycle pull a cord tied to his body just before the explosion.
"I was close to the man and I saw him pulling the cord," Sumon said, groaning in pain. "I immediately collapsed and I've no idea how I landed up here in the hospital."
A series of explosions this year have been blamed on militants who seek to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh, a largely Muslim country governed by secular laws.
Witnesses to Thursday's blast described a scene of bloodied victims and screaming survivors. "It was a terrible sight. People were screaming in pain all around," said Shymolendu Pal, a reporter for Dhaka's Ittefaq newspaper. He and several other journalists had gathered in the area before the blast to report on the other bomb police had earlier defused.
Among the dead was an activist whose organization, Udichi Shilpi Ghosti, or the Rising Sun Artists Group, has recently held several anti-militant concerts, police said. The woman, who was not identified, was traveling in a motor rickshaw when the bomb exploded nearby, police said, adding that she was not believed to have been a specific target. Shops and schools shut down shortly after the blasts as panic spread through Netrokona, reports the AP. I.L.