Police said it was believed to be first time Bangladesh’s tiny Shiite Muslim community has been targeted and came just weeks after an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer were shot dead in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.
Officers said a 14-year-old boy died on the spot after three small bombs were thrown at the complex of the Hossaini Dalan, the main Shiite site in the old Mughal quarter of Dhaka, at about 2:00 am Saturday (2000 GMT Friday).
“There were some 20,000 people in and outside the building at that time. They were preparing to hold the annual Muharram mourning procession when the three (bombs) were exploded,” deputy commissioner of Dhaka Police Mofiz Uddin Ahmed told AFP.
The attacks come as Shiites around the world mark the holy month of Moharram, with Pakistan’s Shiites also suffering sectarian violence this week after two suicide blasts killed at least 27 people.
In Bangladesh, television showed live footage of the chaos in the aftermath of the blasts with people, many holding flags, fleeing and ambulances taking the injured to hospital.
Local police chief Azizul Haq said at least one person was killed and around 80 injured in the attack, which took place on the premises of the 17th century religious site.
“We’ve recovered two unexploded bombs. These are like explosive devices and almost like grenades and fitted with batteries,” Haq told AFP, adding one person had been detained.
Police inspector Mozammel Hoque told AFP that most of the injured were hit by bomb splinters but no-one was in critical condition.
“Some 50 were brought to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. A 14-year-old boy was brought in dead. He died due to the explosion,” he said.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, police said.