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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
UK envoy hurt in Bangladesh blast
Anwar Choudhury in hospital in Sylhet
Mr Choudhury's visit to the shrine had been widely publicised
The top British diplomat in Bangladesh has been wounded in a bomb attack in the north-eastern town of Sylhet, police have said.

Two people died and at least 25 were hurt, including UK high commissioner Anwar Choudhury, in the attack on a Muslim shrine, police and doctors said.

Mr Choudhury was treated for leg injuries but is not seriously hurt.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "deeply shocked" by the bombing. It is unclear who carried out the attack.

Mr Choudhury told the AFP news agency from hospital in Sylhet: "The bomb hit my stomach after it was hurled, but did not explode [then].

"It fell on the ground near the foot of the district chief and then exploded with a big bang," he said.

This is a hell of a scene with dozens of injured lying in the emergency ward and in the corridors
Eyewitness, Sylhet hospital

The chief government administrator of the district was among the injured, along with Mr Choudhury's bodyguard.

Britain's Foreign Office said it could not rule out that this was an assassination attempt on Mr Choudhury.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia denounced the bombing and sent her sympathies to the high commissioner and the other victims.

A blast at the same shrine, of Muslim saint Hazrat Shahjalal, in January this year killed three people.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Dhaka says the latest explosion occurred as Mr Choudhury walked out of a mosque at the shrine after Friday prayers.

Police say they suspect a bomb was thrown by somebody in the crowd.

Sympathies

A reporter at the Sylhet Medical College Hospital told the Reuters news agency: "This is a hell of a scene with dozens of injured lying in the emergency ward and in the corridors."

The hospital was treating about 50 people, said doctor Abdus Salam.

Shahriar Hossain Chowdhury, a senior doctor treating Mr Choudhury, told AFP the envoy was not seriously injured.

"He is absolutely in good health and suffered soft tissue injuries to his right leg."

The diplomat was later flown back to Dhaka for further treatment.

The Bangladeshi-born Mr Choudhury only took up his post in the country last week.

His family is originally from the Sylhet region and his visit to the mosque was widely publicised.

Mr Straw sent his sympathies to the victims of the attack.

"Details of exactly what happened and the nature of the injuries are not clear. We are grateful for the support we are receiving from the Bangladeshi authorities," he said.

In the January attack, three people were killed by an explosion at the shrine during a religious gathering.

No one has been arrested for that bombing, but Islamic extremists have been widely blamed.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Roland Buerk
"Police suspect the bomb was thrown by somebody in the crowd"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Anwar Choudhury
21 May 04  |  South Asia
Police probe Bangladesh bombing
13 Jan 04  |  South Asia
Country profile: Bangladesh
26 Mar 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Bangladesh
17 May 04  |  Country profiles


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