Bomb kills 10 in Bangladesh Catholic church

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - A bomb exploded Sunday inside a Roman Catholic church during mass, killing at least 10 people and wounding 25 others in southwestern Bangladesh, police said.

Nine worshippers died instantly in the Christian Mission Church in Baniarchar village in Gopalganj district, about 160 kilometres southwest of the capital Dhaka. Another died on the way to hospital. At least two of the wounded are in critical condition, doctors said.

''I was deep into prayer when I heard a big bang,'' Hubert Bairagi, one of the survivors, was quoted as saying by United News of Bangladesh. ''The hall was engulfed in smoke. Everyone was screaming.''

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the bombing in her home district and ordered an immediate investigation. ''The culprits must be nabbed and punished,'' he said in a statement.

Dozens of church members had gathered for morning prayers when the bomb went off behind a wooden shelf of bibles and religious books in one corner of the tin-roofed church, head priest Father Mimmo said in a telephone interview. No one has claimed responsibility.

Religious attacks against minority Christians are not common in Bangladesh, where Christians account for a little more than one per cent of Bangladesh's 130 million people. Muslims make up 88 per cent of the population and Hindus 10 per cent.