WICB withdraws U-19s from volatile Bangladesh
ST JOHN'S, Antigua and Barbuda (AFP) — West Indies yesterday withdrew their Under-19 national cricket team from a tour of Bangladesh after a bomb explosion in the port city of Chittagong sparked fears over the squad's safety and security.
Police said a small device went off during a nationwide strike on Saturday evening outside Hotel Agrabad in Bangladesh's second largest city, where the visiting team were staying.
Although there were no injuries in the incident, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) decided to withdraw their squad after considering a report from their security manager, Paul Slowe, a statement said.
"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," said the WICB.
"The State Department of the United States of America has also issued a travel alert to its citizens living in and travelling to Bangladesh.
"Travel arrangements are being made to allow for the team's return to the Caribbean as quickly as possible. The team will remain safely accommodated at the team hotel under adequate security protection until departure from Bangladesh."
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials had held a series of meetings with the visitors, yesterday morning, in an effort to reassure their visitors.
"We've assured them of stepped-up security and they are now convinced," BCB director Akram Khan told AFP earlier in the day in Dhaka.
The explosion came during a nationwide transport blockade called by the country's 18-party opposition alliance, which is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and polls under a neutral government.
At least 70 people have died in the violence triggered by the protests since late October. They include several people hit by small bombs.
Crippling blockade and strikes have paralysed much of the country, forcing suspension of bus, lorry, ferry, and train services.
Bangladesh is due to host the 2014 World Twenty20 championship in March and April next year with Chittagong, Dhaka and Sylhet all scheduled to host matches.