Our Gazipur Correspondent : Thousands of devotees sought forgiveness and divine blessings for peace and prosperity of the Muslim Ummah as the first phase of Biswa Ijtema concluded with the Akheri Munajat on Sunday. The devotees from home and abroad raised their hands in the Akheri Munajat (final supplication) on the bank of Turag River at Tongi on the last day of the first phase of this year’s Biswa Ijtema, the second largest Muslim congregation after holy Hajj. Indian religious scholar Maulana Zubairul Hasan conducted the 20-minute Munajat which began at 12.45pm. Braving cold and transport crisis, devotees of all ages including women swarmed the Ijtema venue, some 20 kilometres off the capital. The gathering spilled over to the adjacent roads, rooftops of nearby buildings and areas around the venue. Many people also took position on vehicles and boats surrounding the Ijtema ground during the Munajat. Traffic on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway remained suspended since yesterday midnight with the sea of people marching towards the bank of Turag. Earlier, the educational institutions, offices and factories adjacent to the venue have been declared shut due to the Akheri Munajat. President Abdul Hamid participated the prayer from the Darbar Hall of Bangabhaban and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took part the prayer through a video conference from her official residence Gonobhaban. BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, members of different political parties, foreign dignitaries and government high-ups joined the prayers at Tongi. The three-day first phase of the annual Islamic congregation began on Friday with the deliberation of ‘Aam Bayan’ (general sermons) after Fajr prayers. The second phase of the Biswa Ijtema will be held from January 31 to February 2. Organisers said some 30 lakh devotees, including 30,000 from about 100 foreign countries joined the Ijtema. Islamic scholars from different Muslim countries, including Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates delivered sermons which were instantly interpreted into Bangla, English and few other languages. Meanwhile, three more devotees have died Saturday night, taking the death toll to nine. Siraj Miah, 50, of Bangshal in the capital, Samir Uddin, 75, of Golapganj in Sylhet and Kashem Ali, 57, of Dohar in Dhaka died of cardiac arrest between 11:30pm and 12midnight Saturday. Six people including a Yemeni citizen died of various reasons on the Ijtema ground on Friday and Saturday. The second phase of the Ijtema will be held after a four-day gap from January 31 to February 2. Tabligh Jamaat has been organising the annual congregation in Tongi since 1946.