Staff Reporter : Tens of thousands of devotees offered Jumma Prayer for ‘Peace’ and divine blessings yesterday on the bank of the river Turag and its adjacent areas in the district of Gazipur on the first day of the first phase of the Biswa Ijtema amid tight security. Organised by Tabligh Jamaat, the Ijtema started after Dawn (Fazr) prayer with religious sermon by Indian Islamic scholar Maulana Ismail Hossain Batla. Breaking the decades old tradition, for the third time in succession, the Ijtema is being held in two phases. Starting on Friday, the first phase will end with ‘Akheri Munajat’ on Jan 26. The second phase will start from January 31 after a four-day break. It will continue till February 2 in the same way. People from all walks of life are working as volunteers. The ground has been marked with lines and poles so that devotees offering prayers can stand as per the marks conveniently. The ground for Ijtema’s first phase has been divided into 40 sections (Khitta) where participants from 32 districts will stay. Foreigners attending the Ijtema are settled in the northwest part of the field. The army engineers have built eight floating bridges so that devotees can cross the Turag with ease. Meanwhile, three people died on Ijtema venue early on Friday, said Mahbubur Rahman Chowdhury, Resident Medical Officer of Tongi Upazila Health Complex. The reason behind the death of the two devotees identified as Omar Ali, 48, from Keraniganj in Dhaka district and Abdul Mazid Pramanik, 65, from Belkuchi in Sirajganj district could not be known immediately. However, Shahjalal, 26, son of Abu Taher, from Feni, died of diarrhoea. Shahjalal was a bus driver. He drove a bus with devotees to the Ijtema venue the previous night. Doctors declared Omar Ali and Hazi Abdul Mazid Pramanik dead when they were rushed to the upazila health complex between 2:30am and 3:45am. Shahjalal died around 7:00am. On the first-day, the authorities arranged a mass wedding ceremony without dowry on the Ijtema ground. A five-layer security system involving 10,000 policemen and members of RAB and intelligence agencies are keeping close eyes on the area. Some of them have been stationed to meet emergency. This year 50,000 foreigners are expected from 130 countries of the world, including China, the USA, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UK. The tin-roofed quarters for foreigners in the north-east of the Ijtema ground are equipped with all possible facilities, including gas, power and telephone connections, said organising committee member Gias Uddin. There is a medical camp, which will provide free treatment. Ambulances are standby. The sermon stage has been erected in the east. More than 500 clerics from various countries will speak from there. The main sermons are being given in Urdu, later explained in other languages.