Four more die in poll-bound Bangladesh during opposition strike

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 00:48

Dhaka: At least four persons were killed as fresh violence erupted on Tuesday across Bangladesh on the final day of a 60-hour opposition strike demanding a caretaker regime to oversee the next general election, taking the overall death toll in the political unrest to 20.

A youth leader of the ruling Awami League was hacked to death by unidentified persons in Chittagong, police said.

Reports from Cox`s Bazar district said two workers of the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of the main opposition BNP, died when police fired on protesters.

Witnesses said a BNP cadre was killed in clashes between police and protesters in western Magura district. An injured worker of the Awami League died overnight in northern Kishorganj, officials said.

The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance called the shutdown to press for the restoration of the neutral caretaker government system to oversee the next election. The polls are to be held by January 25, 2014.

Supporters of BNP and Jamaat torched a bus in Manikganj and vandalised at least eight vehicles in Gazipur.

Opposition activists earlier exploded several crude bombs in front of houses of ministers and leaders of the Awami League at midnight in Dhaka. Six persons, including a nine-year-old girl and a police officer, were injured in the blasts.

They also set afire a number of vehicles and clashed with police and rival activists in Dhaka, injuring many people.

Incidents of clashes, explosions and vandalism were also reported from other parts of Bangladesh. At least 24 crude bombs were blasted in Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal and Joypurhat, reports said.

Seventeen people have been killed in violence linked to political turmoil since Friday.

State media reported that public life in Dhaka remained somewhat normal with many people joining work.

The strike came after a telephonic talk between Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chief Khaleda Zia on Saturday - believed to be the first conversation between the two squabbling leaders in at least a decade - produced no tangible results and did little to ease tensions.

Private TV channels aired a leaked version of Saturday`s conversation between Hasina and Zia. The two leaders were heard engaging in harsh exchanges during the 37-minute discussion that ended abruptly.

Earlier, Hasina had proposed the formation of a caretaker government with representatives of all political parties. Zia, however, rejected her proposal and floated a formula for creating a neutral poll-time caretaker regime.

The Awami League, which has a three-fourths majority in the outgoing parliament, scrapped the caretaker system by amending the Constitution two years ago.

The BNP has repeatedly contended that polls will be fair only under a non-party government. But the Awami League insisted that the caretaker system had proved counter- productive as it was abused. It said the system paved the ways for installation of army-backed regimes.

The two "battling begums" have been ruling Bangladesh alternately since 1991. An army-backed regime ruled the country briefly during 2007-08.

First Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 00:48
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