Police on Friday arrested two suspects who allegedly used Molotov cocktails to attack a Sunni mosque inside a naval base in Bangladesh’s main port city, Chittagong.
Police and witnesses said the homemade devices exploded inside the BNS Issa Khan naval base after Friday prayers, injuring a half-dozen people. Terrorist attacks targeting members of Bangladesh’s Sunni majority are rare.
“Two Molotov cocktails were tossed on the veranda of the mosque after the Jumma prayer was over. Six persons were injured. We have detained two suspects for the blast. Until the investigation is over, we cannot tell anything about the motive,” Devdas Bhattachriya, an additional commissioner of police for the Chittagong metropolitan area, told BenarNews.
Police usually release few details about attacks inside a military area. Chittagong Metropolitan Police Commissioner Abdul Jalil Mondal and police officials went to the scene, but journalists were not allowed in.
The military’s Inter-Service Public Relations office stated that one person who had unexploded devices was arrested immediately after the incident.
“The majority of musallis (worshipers) were coming out of the mosque after finishing their prayers. There was a crowd as many people headed for the exit. Suddenly, we heard an explosion and then another explosion,” Alam, a worshiper who was inside the mosque, told BenarNews.
He declined to disclose his full name for fear of harassment.
This is the second violent incident inside a military facility since Nov. 10, when an assailant used a machete to attack an on-duty military police officer controlling traffic at the Kochukhet intersection inside Dhaka Cantonment.
Cleric denounces attackers
“Those carrying out such attacks are the enemy of Islam. This is not a simple criminal attack. The so-called militants and the enemies of Islam may be behind the attack. The police must investigate whether any political party was behind such attacks,” Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, who heads Bangladesh Jamatul Ulama, a leading Islamic clerical organization in the country, told BenarNews.
Masud has blamed Bangladesh’s largest faith-based party, Jamaat-e-Islami, for a spate of violent attacks since late September.
Jamaat posted a statement on its website condemning Masud for such comments and said the allegations were baseless and made up.
The majority Sunnis generally maintain good relations with minority communities including Shiite-minority Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Bahais, but religious minorities have been the targets of recent attacks by suspected militants.
In October, an attack on a Shiite procession in Dhaka killed two people. Shiites had been living in relative peace in Bangladesh for 400 years.
On Nov. 30, three gunmen entered a Shiite mosque in the northern district of Bogra, killing an imam. The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for both attacks, according to the U.S.-based jihadi monitoring group, SITE.
Bangladesh officials and police, however, have kept claiming that IS has no presence in the country, and that home-grown militants carried out such attacks by co-opting the IS name.