DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh's cricket chief has said that next year's Twenty20 World Cup is threatened by the country's deadly political violence, and there may only be weeks to save the tournament.
The 16-team competition, due to take place from March 16 to April 6, should be the biggest sporting event ever staged by Bangladesh.
But the country has been gripped by violent protests in recent weeks, with opposition supporters insisting that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stand aside before elections due next month. More than 74 people have been killed since late October.
"If this situation prevails, then any big tournament or participation of any big country will be under threat," Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan told reporters late Monday. "This must end in January and preferably in December."
The political violence has affected almost every city, including the three host venues for the T20 tournament - the capital Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet.
A team of International Cricket Council (ICC) inspectors declared last week they were "happy" with security arrangements but said they would continue to monitor the situation.
However, the dangers posed to teams was underlined at the weekend when a small bomb exploded outside the West Indies' Under-19 team's hotel in the port city of Chittagong, prompting them to cut short their tour.
Bangladesh is also due to host a tour by Sri Lanka in January before then staging the Asia Cup, a 50-over tournament starting in February which also features India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"The quicker this political situation improves the better because the Sri Lanka tour is in January and then we have the Asia Cup. It needs to be resolved before that," said Mr Hassan, who is a ruling party lawmaker.
Nizamuddin Chowdhury, the BCB's chief executive, told reporters that the ICC had asked the board to relay them an update on the situation. "We will send (it to) them accordingly," he said.
An ICC spokesman told AFP on Monday that it was "actively monitoring" the situation in Bangladesh, stressing that it gave the highest priority to the safety of all participants in ICC events.
Fica, the umbrella body for players' associations from around the cricketing world, said it was seeking advice from its independent security adviser on the threat level.
"We will continue to monitor the threat levels between now and the start of the tournament and will keep players informed as to the situation," said executive chairman Paul Marsh.
"As is always the case with security issues, we will ensure that the safety of our players is paramount in our decision-making. There is, however more than three months until the event starts and as such we do not need to be making any decisions at this time."
A spokesman for Cricket Australia said the board would seek its own government's advice on the security situation, but no decision on whether to go to Bangladesh would be made until much nearer the time.
Australia and the West Indies both refused to play in Sri Lanka during the 1996 50-over World Cup after a bomb went off in Colombo, killing 91 people, shortly before the tournament began.
New Zealand refused to play in Kenya during the 2003 World Cup, a few months after a deadly bomb attack in Mombasa.
Pakistan has not hosted any international matches since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team during a Test in Lahore in 2009.