Dhaka: Thousands of police patrolled the streets of the Bangladeshi capital on Thursday as a nationwide strike called by the main opposition party and its Islamist allies shut schools and businesses.
The strike focused on rising fuel prices and the detention of top opposition figures by a tribunal set up to prosecute atrocities carried out during the country`s liberation struggle in 1971.
"So far the strike is peaceful," Dhaka police spokesman Masud Ahmed said, adding that up to 13,000 police officers had been deployed to prevent unrest in the city.
Teams of law enforcement officers headed by magistrates have also been deployed -- empowered to hand out on-the-spot jail terms of up to 15 days to any unruly protesters, Ahmed said.
Dhaka`s roads were largely deserted and transport to other cities was disrupted, but police said the country`s main Chittagong sea port -- which ships most of the country`s crucial garment exports -- was operating as normal.
The government on Sunday hiked prices for diesel, petrol and compressed natural gas in a bid to reduce its soaring fuel subsidy bill, prompting an outcry from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Police said a number of opposition supporters had been arrested across the country on Wednesday and Thursday. The BNP put the figure at some 350 arrests.
More than 600 members of the BNP`s Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, have been arrested since the party staged violent protests Monday, demanding the release from jail of its top leaders, who are being investigated for war crimes in 1971.
In a new wave of political unrest, the BNP and its allies have also enforced a series of strikes over changes to the electoral system that they say unfairly favour the incumbent government.