Bangladesh hit by second nationwide strike

DHAKA: Clashes erupted and transport and business was disrupted in Bangladesh yesterday after the main opposition party called a second strike in three days to protest at what it said was “barbaric” police action in the first strike. 

The Awami League, the country's biggest opposition party, said in a statement nearly 100 of its members and supporters, including several senior leaders, were injured in the latest countrywide strike. 

Witnesses said clashes erupted yesterday, a working day in Bangladesh, when baton-wielding police turned on stone-throwing protesters. 

“The on-and-off-again battle is mostly concentrated around the Awami League central office at Gulistan, in the heart of the city,” one witness said. Others said protesters had exploded some homemade bombs but no one was injured. 

The strike was in protest against police action on Thursday, when the Awami League called a strike to mobilise support for its campaign to topple Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and force early elections, which are otherwise not due before October 2006. 

Awami League general secretary Abdul Jalil said: “Hundreds of our party leaders, including a former minister, and supporters were wounded in barbaric police actions during Thursday's strike”.  

The former minister, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, and several others were still in hospital, party leaders said.  

Hundreds of opposition activists here took to the streets under the watchful eyes of hundreds of police and paramilitary troops, witnesses said. 

The strike had affected Chittagong port and major towns. Most shops remained closed and schools suspended examinations. The Dhaka and Chittagong stock exchanges also remained shut. 

Awami chief Sheikh Hasina said the government had pushed the country “into unprecedented lawlessness, making killings, lootings and abductions rampant”. – Reuters  

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