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1st-phase Biswa Ijtema ends today . 5 devotees die so far

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A Correspondent Gazipur: The first phase of the three-day Biswa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims after hajj, concludes at Tongi, near capital Dhaka, today with the Akheri Munajat (concluding prayers). Hundreds of thousands of devotees are expected to take part in the Akheri Munajat turning the Turag River bank and vast areas around it into a human sea. Islamic scholars from different countries are delivering sermons on various aspects of Islam. Maulana Ismael Hossain Godra of India, among others, delivered sermons on the second day. Meanwhile, five devotees have so far died till Saturday, with three of them passing away on Saturday while the rest on Friday. Riaz Uddin, 70, a resident of Astagram upazila in Kishoreganj district, died at Tongi Hospital around 9:45am on Saturday while Khairul Kabir, 60, of Bhairab upazila in the same district, at the Ijtema ground at about 9:15am and Kafil Uddin, 65, of Naldanga upazila in Natore, died at about 12:45am. Jahangir Alam, 70, a resident of South Badda in the capital, died at about 11pm and Abdus Salam, 50, of Kittonia in Kapasia upazila of Gazipur district, died at 7:30pm on Friday. Like previous years, dowry-free mass marriages were solemnized after Asr prayers on the second day of the Biswa Ijtema. Muslim devotees from 32 districts of the country and 4,982 foreign nationals from 50 countries are participating in the first phase Ijtema, sources at the district Special Branch of police said. Special security measures were in place to ensure security of the devotees amid the countrywide non-stop blockade enforced by the BNP-led 20-party alliance. A larger number of troops from various law enforcement agencies have been deployed at Tongi to ensure the foolproof security of the devotees. Several watch towers have been erected at the entrances to the Ijtema ground. Besides, a good number of close circuit cameras and a control room have been set up for providing healthcare services to the devotees. Police super of Gazipur M Harunur Rashid said they will further beep up security on the concluding day on Sunday. The second phase of the three-day Biswa Ijtema will be held on January 16-18. The Ijtema is being held in two phases from 2012 to ease accommodation problem. The first Ijtema was held at Kakrail Mosque in the capital way back in 1946, the second one in Chittagong in 1948 and at Pagar in Tongi in 1966. The Biswa Ijtema has been held on the eastern bank of Turag River since then as space at Pagar was not sufficient.