Vol. 5 Num 90 Tue. August 24, 2004  
Front Page

Bush concerned
Powell phones Khaleda,Hasina; Straw slates attack; envoys visit AL president

US President George W Bush has expressed deep shock at Saturday's grenade attacks on an Awami League rally that killed at least 18 people and injured 200 others in a gory episode that prompted torrents of condemnation from a host of countries.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has conveyed Bush's message to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia last night and Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina Sunday night by phone and described the attackers as enemies of people.

Private news agency UNB quoted Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan as saying Powell called Khaleda at about 10:00pm on behalf of Bush expressing deep shock at the "unfortunate, cowardly and heinous attack" on the rally of the main opposition party.

Powell hoped all parties would show utmost restraint to overcome the situation and said the attackers may have tried to destabilise the democratic system of Bangladesh.

The US government leader agreed with the prime minister that the incident is not a partisan issue -- it involves reputation and image of Bangladesh, UNB adds.

After the phone call to Hasina, Powell said in a statement in Washington: "The perpetrators of this heinous attack clearly intend to undermine democracy in Bangladesh. We reiterate our steadfast support for Bangladesh's democracy and call for those responsible to be brought to justice."

A host of countries including United Kingdom yesterday condemned the attacks and called for an investigation in an appeal that came two days after Hasina survived an assassination attempt at the rally on Bangabandhu Avenue.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the UK condemns the bombings and added: "We look to the Bangladesh authorities to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."

"I was shocked to hear the latest bombings in Dhaka and many deaths and injuries these have caused, as well as further violent incidents overnight," Straw said in a statement.

Foreign envoys, including British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury, yesterday called on Hasina at Sudha Sadan, her Dhanmondi residence, and offered sympathy for her.

"We are terribly shocked and horrified," said Choudhury, who was injured in a bomb blast in the northeastern city of Sylhet on May 21.

Royal Netherlands Ambassador Kees Beemsterboer read out a statement calling on the government to "thoroughly investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice".

Diplomats of other European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy were on the eight-member delegation.

Hasina's Political Secretary Saber Hossain Chowdhury told newspersons that AL leaders described the present social and political context to the delegation. "We told them that no investigation of bomb blasts or political killings, including of lawmaker Ahsanullah Master, was complete."

Saber said opposition lawmakers fear fresh attacks on the AL president as the previous incidents were not properly investigated.

AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil and Hasina's younger sister Sheikh Rehana were also present at the meeting.

Sri Lankan Ambassador in Dhaka Gamini Farath Munasinghe and former Attorney General of Pakistan Senator Iqbal Haider also met the leader of the opposition.