Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – The World Congregation of Muslims, generally known as Biswa Ijtema, began on the bank of river Turag just outside the capital Dhaka on Friday amid tight security.

The first phase of the Ijtema, organized by the Tabligh-e-Jamaat, will run through to January 15 while the second phase on January 20-22, during which the faithfuls pray and listen to religious scholars.

The Bishwa Ijtema was first launched in 1946 and is now the second largest congregation of Muslims in the world after the Hajj.

Seven devotees died due to severe cold from Thursday night to Friday evening.

Devotees from 32 districts of the country are attending the first phase alongside over 15,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mali, Madagaskar, Cambodia, the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Australia, Brunei and other countries.

Ulema and Islamic scholars from around the world are delivering lectures this year. They will be interpreted to Bangla, English, Arabic and a few other languages.

Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers are working round the clock to ensure that the event runs smoothly. Security is high and around 12,000 personnel from different security agencies are posted at the venue.

Observation towers have been set up to monitor movement at the venue and close-circuit television cameras are being used at the 17 entrances.

Special measures have been taken to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity during the event.

Gazipur police superintendent Abdul Baten said a total 10,000 security personnel including Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police are working to ensure safety at the Ijtema ground.

The state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) is operating single- and double-decker buses between January 12 and 24 to facilitate easy movement of pilgrims to and from the congregation.

Parking places have been designated to avoid gridlocks.

BBN/SSR/AD-14Jan12-10:50 am (BST)