Suicide bombers kill 7 in Bangladesh


CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh -- Two suicide bombers targeting courthouses killed at least seven people yesterday in escalating violence blamed on Muslim extremists demanding an Islamic state.

Two police officers were among those who died in the blasts in this southeastern port city and Gazipur, 20 miles north of Dhaka, the capital. More than 50 people were wounded, 20 critically.

The coordinated suicide bombings were the first such attacks in Bangladesh, where security forces have been struggling to stop increasingly sophisticated assaults and bring the masterminds to justice.

The first explosion occurred around 9 a.m., when a bomber struck at a checkpoint outside a court building here as police scanned him with a metal detector. Two police officers were killed in the blast, and several others were badly burned.

The bomber hit before most lawyers and judges had arrived for yesterday's sessions, said lawyer Shakwat Hossain.

"If the bombers could have carried the things inside the court, it would have caused more havoc," Hossain said.

Forty minutes later, a suicide bomber disguised in a lawyer's black gown and tie walked into the Gazipur district court's law library and detonated his explosives, killing himself and at least five others, said police Subinspector Abdul Malek.

Bangladesh has been rocked by a series of bloody attacks in recent months.

On Aug. 17, between 200 and 500 bombs exploded across the country over a few hours. The blasts killed two people and injured more than 100.

A militant killed two judges Nov. 14 by tossing a bomb into their minivan a few seconds after trying to hand them leaflets demanding that Bangladesh be ruled by Shariah law.

Nurul Alam and Paul Watson write for the Los Angeles Times.

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