CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh – Bombs exploded in two Bangladeshi cities on Tuesday, killing at least eight people and injuring 66 in what appeared to be the latest attack by militant Muslims intent on imposing harsh Islamic law, officials said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but police investigators suspected the outlawed Islamic militant group Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, blamed for similar attacks this year.
The explosions in the main port city of Chittagong and in the town of Gaizipur, just outside the capital, Dhaka, happened just before 9 a.m. and appeared to target courthouses, police said.
Three bombs exploded just outside the Chittagong courthouse, killing the alleged homicide bomber and fatally injuring two police officers, police official Mosharraf Hossain told The Associated Press.
Sixteen people — including the second suspected suicide bomber — were injured, some critically, said Habibur Rahman, a doctor at state-run Chittagong Medical College Hospital, 135 miles southeast of Dhaka.
Hossain said the first explosion occurred when police scuffled with the suspected bomber, who they had stopped at the gate of the courthouse. The second alleged bomber then detonated two more bombs as he tried to escape, he said.
Three people, including an alleged bomber, were killed in Gazipur, where a powerful bomb went off inside the Bar Library near a courthouse, local police chief Atiqul Islam said. An unidentified woman and a lawyer later died at a Dhaka hospital, the United News of Bangladesh reported.
The blast at Gazipur, 20 miles north of Dhaka, injured at least 50 people, Islam said.
The blasts caused panic and triggered protests in courthouses across Bangladesh.
In Dhaka, hundreds of lawyers boycotted the courts and took to the streets, urging the authorities to take action against those responsible.
In some cities and towns, judges refused to attend court for fear of more attacks, private ATN Bangla television reported.
Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh has been blamed for a spate of recent bombings in Bangladesh. The group seeks to establish strict Islamic rule in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which is governed by secular laws.
Two weeks ago two judges were killed in the southern town of Jhalakathi by a suspected suicide attacker also allegedly linked to the banned group. Four people were killed and dozens injured in bomb attacks in August and October.