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Bangladesh orders shoot at sight during opposition strike

Bangladeshi authorities issued "shoot at sight" orders as main opposition BNP and its allies enforced a nationwide 36-hour strike.

Dhaka: Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday issued "shoot at sight" orders as main opposition BNP and its allies in 18-party coalition enforced a nationwide 36-hour strike demanding resignation of the ruling Awami League government.

"Orders have been issued to shoot at sight the saboteurs who will be seen setting on fire the trains or buses or carrying out sabotages of different other types as Home Minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir met with senior officers of police and other law enforcement agencies ahead of the hartal," the mass circulation Prothom Alo newspaper reported.

Alamgir or police chief Hassan Mahmud Khandaker were not available immediately for comments but officials familiar with the "emergency meeting" said the law enforcement agencies were asked to take stern action against the "troublemakers".

"We have asked the law enforcement agencies to take appropriate action considering the situation at the scenes," state minister Shamsul Haque Tuku told a newspaper without elaboration.

The order came after suspected opposition activists torched at least nine vehicles and damaged several others yesterday when the country celebrated the Independence Day.

Schools and big shopping malls were closed and transports were thin on the street though opposition activists did not make visible their presence on streets in capital where the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion and riot patrolled while paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh were kept alert.

The television channels reported over a dozen crude bomb blasts in different parts of the capital where the suspected activists also set afire a CNG-run three-wheeler today apparently adopting the hit and run tactics when police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets.

"We are announcing a 36-hour hartal to wage an all-out movement against the government to realise our demands, which include the government`s resignation, restoration of the caretaker government system (for election oversight) and release of our party men," BNP`s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told a press conference earlier.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was yet to issue an statement on the government`s "shoot at sight" decision but chairman of the statutory National Human Rights Commission Professor Mizanur Rahman criticized the order saying other options were there to prevent the saboteurs.

"If it is the decision (shoot at sight) I don`t agree with that," he told newsmen.

BNP was waging a campaign over electoral system demanding restoration of a caretaker government for election oversight as the national election was due next year but ongoing trials of several stalwarts of its crucial rightwing ally Jamaat-e- Islami for 1971 war crimes visibly shifted the focus.

After an initial dilemma, BNP eventually put its weight behind its ally calling the trial a witch-hunt. The violence over the war crimes trial claimed over 70 lives.