Bangladesh police fire tear gas at protesters

The dawn-to-dusk stoppage was called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Updated: Nov 14, 2010, 14:43 PM IST

Dhaka: Police fired tear gas in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Sunday as political violence that broke out on Saturday continued during a day-long general strike, officers and witnesses said.

Thousands of protesters marched on the streets of Dhaka and other cities, clashing with police in ongoing fallout from the government`s eviction of the main opposition party leader.

"At several places in the capital, police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse brick-throwing and stick-wielding protesters. Some have been injured or detained," said a report. Other witnesses said protesters vandalised several buses and cars in the city.

Local television and radio channels reported sporadic violence in outlying districts including Noakhali, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sirajganj and Narsingdi, where police said about a dozen people were injured and at least 20 detained.

Many workers observed a national day-long strike called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), severely disrupting transport in the capital city of 12 million. Several thousand people hoping to travel to villages for Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim religious festival, were unable to leave Dhaka.

The stoppage was called by the BNP in protest against the eviction of BNP leader and former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia from her home at the Dhaka military barracks.

Sunday is a working day in Bangladesh. Many offices and banks opened with only a handful of employees to beat the strike, and the Dhaka and Chittagong stock exchanges were open for trade, officials and brokers said. Work at the country`s main port of Chittagong port was partially disrupted partially.

"The political lull has ended and we are back in the days of violence and disruption," said Abdul Wahab, a businessman.

Fighting started on Saturday after BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia was ordered by a court to leave the house she had occupied since her husband, former Army chief and president Ziaur Rahman, was killed in an abortive coup in 1981.

At least three people were killed in an overnight suicide bomb attack west of the capital at the home of a lawmaker from the ruling Awami League. It was unclear whether that incident was directly related to Khaleda`s eviction.

"We oppose both the eviction (of Khaleda) and the strike (called by the BNP)," said Asadullah Habib, who works for a private company. "These are games by politicians, in which ordinary people have been caught hostage," he said.

Bureau Report