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Bangladesh play down security fears after bomb blast

© AFP
BCB officials said they were making an effort to persuade the touring West Indian team to stay on © AFP

 

Dhaka: Dec 9, 2013

 

Bangladesh cricket authorities played down security fears on Monday after a bomb explosion outside the hotel of a West Indian touring team sparked jitters ahead of the World Twenty20 next March.

 

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Sunday withdrew their Under-19 national cricket team from a seven-match series underway in Bangladesh after the bombing in the port city of Chittagong.

 

Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials said they were making an effort to persuade the team to stay on.

 

“We’ve talked to West Indies Under-19 team management this morning. They are happy with the arrangements and the extra security we have made,” BCB chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury told AFP.

 

“We’re trying to talk to the WICB to assure them that things are alright here. It was an isolated incident. The players were not targeted.”

 

Chowdhury said the blast in Chittagong amid escalating violence in the unrest-plagued nation would not affect the 16-nation World Twenty20 to be played in March and April.

 

“We are confident the situation would be normal by then,” he said.

 

Police said a small device went off during a nationwide transport blockade on Saturday evening outside Hotel Agrabad in Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city, where the visiting team were staying.

 

Although no one was injured, the WICB decided to withdraw their squad after considering a report from their security manager Paul Slowe.

 

“The report emphasised that the current security environment in Bangladesh is not conducive to the playing of cricket in light of the 72-hours nationwide blockade and calls for countrywide dawn to dusk protest,” the WICB said in a statement.

 

“The State Department of the United States of America has also issued a travel alert to its citizens living in and travelling to Bangladesh,” it said, adding “travel arrangements are being made to allow for the team’s return to the Caribbean as quickly as possible”.

 

During the 2011 World Cup, irate Bangladeshi fans threw stones at the West Indies team bus in Dhaka following the home team’s dismissal for 58 during a nine-wicket defeat.

 

The explosion came as a series of protests by the country’s 18-party opposition alliance triggered widespread violence in major cities across the country including the capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet — the venues of the World Twenty20.

 

The opposition has been demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down and make way for a caretaker government to oversee national elections which are scheduled for January 5.

 

At least 72 people have died in the violence since late October. They include several people hit by small bombs.

 

Crippling blockades and strikes have paralysed much of the country, forcing the suspension of bus, lorry, ferry and train services.

 

The International Cricket Council said last week it will monitor political violence in Bangladesh ahead of the World Twenty20 meet but were “happy” with the arrangements for now.

 

Elsewhere in South Asia, cricket teams have stayed away from Pakistan since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in March, 2009.

 

Australia and the West Indies refused to play World Cup matches in Colombo in 1996 following a severe blast.

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