Violence during opposition strike in Bangladesh, 1 killed



Dhaka: Violence flared in Bangladesh on Tuesday leaving one person dead and dozens injured, as main opposition BNP-led alliance enforced a nationwide general strike protesting against arrests of their senior leaders.

Police said a 35-year old trucker was killed and several people injured in northwestern Bogra district after being attacked with stones.

The first day of the 36-hour 'hartal' was also marked by sporadic incidents of violence in Dhaka with opposition activists setting off crude bombs, torching vehicles and clashing with security forces who fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

The 18-party opposition alliance called the nationwide 36-hour strike demanding the release of over 160 of their members arrested in the last two weeks.

The strike came a day after newly-formed radical Hafazat-e-Islam enforced a nationwide shutdown demanding enactment of an anti-blasphemy law and punishment for a group of internet bloggers whom they dubbed "atheists" for allegedly insulting Islam.

The hardline Jamaat-e-Islami is a crucial partner of the opposition alliance currently waging an anti-government campaign demanding restoration of a caretaker government system for election oversight and a halt to ongoing 1971 war crimes trial against Jamaat leaders.

JI's student body Islami Chhatra Shibir has also called for another nationwide 'hartal' on Thursday.

Paramilitary forces and riot police patrolled streets in major cities as some 50 vehicles were vandalised and five set afire in different districts last night apparently by opposition activists to enforce the strike.

Police also arrested Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and nine other party leaders for torching vehicles and assaulting police.

"We want to make the government understand by observing the hartal that people of the country are not in a good shape. The government wants to remain in power permanently by sending the opposition leaders and workers to jail on false charges," BNP adviser Shamsuzzaman Dudu told a press conference.

But state minister for law, Quamrul Islam today said the government was forced to take legal action against top BNP leaders alleging they were trying to render the state dysfunctional.

"They (BNP leaders) conspired to make the state fully dysfunctional. The BNP leaders have been arrested as they're moving ahead with that blueprint. Its not important who they are, rather the question what they were doing," he said.

PTI