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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Bangladesh rally bombed
Bangladesh election campaign posters
The election campaign has been extremely violent
By Alastair Lawson in Dhaka

At least eight people have been killed and nearly 100 injured in two powerful bomb blasts during an election rally in south-western Bangladesh.

Bangladesh map
Police say they expect the death toll from the explosions in the district of Bagerhat to rise.

Many of the injured have been rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Khulna, and at least 20 of them are reported to be in a serious condition.

The violence comes ahead of parliamentary elections, which are due to be held on 1 October.

Bloody campaign

The two bombs exploded during a rally of the Awami League party near the town of Mollarhat.

No group has yet claimed responsibility.

There was a similar bomb explosion during an Awami League meeting in the town of Narayanganj in June - on that occasion, at least 20 people were killed.

No group claimed responsibility then although the government hinted that Islamic radicals may have been responsible.

The election campaign so far has been one of the most violent in the country's history.

Heightened tensions

The caretaker government which, under the constitution, is responsible for ensuring a free and fair election, has already decided to deploy over 50,000 troops to ensure a free, fair and violence-free vote.

Bangladesh troops
Over 50,000 troops have been deployed to police the election

But it faces an uphill task - the latest casualties take the number of people killed in the campaign to well over 100.

Tension in Bangladesh ahead of the elections has been heightened by the personal animosity between the leader of the Awami League, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Their character clash is reflected among their respective sets of supporters.

Police say that they suspect the target of the latest bomb attack was the local Awami League MP, Sheikh Helaluddin, who is Sheikh Hasina's cousin.

He was at the rally, but escaped injury.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alastair Lawson in Dhaka
"The latest casualties take the number of people killed in the campaign to well over a hundred"
See also:

19 Aug 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh poll in October
07 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh poll line-up complete
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
US condemns Bangladesh violence
17 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh hunts party office bombers
13 Jul 01 | South Asia
Three die in Bangladesh clashes
01 Apr 01 | South Asia
Violence hits Bangladesh
06 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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