Sunday, January 30, 2005

BANGLADESH: Opposition General Strike Report - Day 1- 29JAN [5 News Clipping]


01. More Than 70 Hurt in Bangladesh Strike Violence
02. Bangladesh turns violent ahead of SAARC summit
03. Violence marks start of three-day opposition strike in Bangla
04. Bangladesh opposition attacks "violent extremism" after blast
05. Opposition-Sponsored Strike Shuts Down Bangladesh


01. More Than 70 Hurt in Bangladesh Strike Violence

DHAKA (Reuters) - More than 70 people were injured and about 100
detained in Bangladesh Saturday as police battled opposition
protesters during a nationwide general strike.

Witnesses said the strikers halted at least five trains on their way
to and from the capital, Dhaka, damaged scores of rickshaws and
mini-cabs, and scuffled with security forces.

Authorities deployed hundreds of police, paramilitary troops and
auxiliary forces in Dhaka and other main cities trying to keep order.

The main opposition party, the Awami League, called a three-day
national strike starting at dawn Saturday after an explosion at a
rally in the country's northeast Thursday killed a senior party
leader and four other people.

Police said the explosion, which also wounded around 70, was caused
by a grenade thrown by an unknown assailant.

In Dhaka, steel-helmeted police and other security forces with
automatic weapons and batons patrolled streets and guarded key

The strike drove most transport off Dhaka's usually crowded streets
and closed shops and schools.

"At least 50 people including a former Awami minister, Obaidul Kader,
were injured in police action in Dhaka on Saturday," one witness

Police said 20 or more activists were injured in sporadic violence in
the southern district of Noakhali.

The stoppage widely disrupted business as well as activities at the
country's main port, Chittagong. The Dhaka and Chittagong stock
exchanges were closed, traders said.

Thursday's blast -- the latest in a series to rock the country over
the last year -- killed former U.N. official, diplomat and finance
minister Shah Abu Mohammad Shamsul Kibria, 73, a key Awami leader, as
well as his nephew and three others.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia condemned Kibria's death and vowed
to bring his killers to justice.

But Awami chief Sheikh Hasina, who herself narrowly escaped injury in
a grenade attack at a rally in Dhaka last August, attacked the
government's commitment to halt the violence.

"This government has failed to conduct any independent and full
investigation into any of the past bombings," she said. "Instead they
have tried to protect the perpetrators."

British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury, himself wounded in a bomb
attack while visiting a Muslim shrine in northeast Bangladesh last
May, said on Friday: "The apparent failure to properly investigate
previous similar attacks has led to a climate of impunity which
encourages a continuation of such incidents."

In Washington, the State Department said Thursday's incident was "an
assault on the principles of free speech, democracy and peaceful
political opposition."

Rights group Amnesty International said the latest incident was "a
stark reminder of the growing vulnerability of opposition politicians
and an apparent lack of determination on the part of the government
to ensure their safety and security." (Additional reporting by Nizam
Ahmed and Mamun Abdullah in Chittagong);jsessionid=1W3A4BTN42WBKCRBAE0CFFA?type=worldNews&storyID=7472939&pageNumber=1


02. Bangladesh turns violent ahead of SAARC summit

With just about a week to go for the 13th SAARC summit here, violence
has erupted across various parts of Bangladesh following the killing
of a former cabinet minister.

Led by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League, opposition parties in
Bangladesh have commenced a 60-hour-long nation-wide strike from
Friday to protest the bomb blast-related murder of former Finance
Minister Shah A M S Kibria and five others in the country's
north-eastern Habigang district on Thursday evening.

Thousands of mourners have come out on the streets in several cities
in Bangladesh carrying mock coffins to signify their anger and
disgust over the incident. A couple of protesters have also clashed
with the police and damaged vehicles and property.

Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has warned that the protest
ovement would continue indefinitely till the ruling Bangladesh

Nationalist Party-led coalition government demits office.

"We'll continue movement until the fall of the coalition
governmentled by BNP... otherwise the killings will not be stopped...
people will not be saved," Sheikh Hasina told journalists.

In Dhaka on Friday, angry protestors damaged a number of motor
vehicles, even as the city was placed under heavy security of the
police and the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles in the run-up to next
week's SAARC summit.

Witnesses and police said that several pall bearers attended Kibria's
funeral. Reports reaching here from the port city of Chittagong said
that the protestors damaged motor vehicles and offices of the ruling
party indiscriminately.

Kibria served as Bangladesh's Finance Minister from 1996 to 2001.

The Habiganj blast was the second deadly assault on Awami League ally
after the grenade attack on opposition leader Sheikh asina's rally in
Dhaka on August 21, 2004, which left 22 people ead and over 200


03. Violence marks start of three-day opposition strike in Bangla

Dhaka, Jan 29 : Stray incidents of violence marked the start of a
marathon three-day nationwide general strike called by Bangladesh's
main opposition Awami League party to protest the grenade attack on
its rally that killed a former minister and four others.

Businesses, schools, private offices and shops were shut as security
personnel guarded the streets of Dhaka and other major cities.

However, a number of state-run buses, taxis and rickshaws were
operating in the capital crammed with 12 million people.

Clashes were witnessed in some parts of the city. Witnesses said
opposition activists attacked a police van sparking brief clashes in
one area of the capital.

Police also used batons to disperse activists in downtown Dhaka's
Muktangan area, they said.

Television channels also reported violence in many other cities of
Bangladesh overnight.

The marathon strike has been called by the Awami League of former
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and has been backed by 14 other
political groups as well as a seven-party student alliance.

The stoppage is to protest the grenade attack on an Awami League
rally in northeastern Habiganj district Thursday in which an Awami
League MP and former Finance Minister S.A.M.S. Kibria and four others
were killed besides injuring 150 others.


04. Bangladesh opposition attacks "violent extremism" after blast

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh's opposition Awami League said the
Muslim-majority country was being "held hostage to violent extremism"
aimed at wrecking its secular foundations after an ex-minister and
four party activists died in a rally blast.

The Awami League Friday called a 72-hour nationwide strike from
Saturday to protest the killings as violence erupted in the capital

"If the government does not resign by this time further action will
be announced," said Awami League acting joint secretary Obaidul

Five League members, including MP and former finance minister Shah
A.M.S. Kibria, were killed by a grenade hurled at a political rally
in northeastern Bangladesh Thursday.

The attack came just over a week before Dhaka hosts a summit of South
Asian leaders.

Kibria's widow Asma told reporters she did not expect to get justice
for her slain husband.

Asked about the perpetrators of the attack, she replied, "Better ask
the alliance government," the private UNB agency quoted her as

Bangladesh's government is a four-party Islamist-allied coalition led
by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Scores of police baton charged Awami League activists and used tear
gas in Dhaka's university area Friday, witnesses told AFP. The
violence broke out as party members filed past Kibria's coffin which
was placed at an monument marking Bangladesh's struggle for
independence, the witnesses said.

"Four buses and a motorcycle have been set alight by Awami League
demonstrators but the violence has been contained so far," police
officer-in-charge Mahbubur Rahman told AFP.

Saber Chowdhury, political secretary to League leader Sheikh Hasina
Wajed, said the killings were part of a pattern of violence against
the party.

"It's not an isolated incident, it's part of an organised and
coordinated design to eliminate the secular democratic and
progressive forces in this country," he said. "The theatre of
terrorism has moved to Bangladesh."

Last August, a grenade attack on an Awami League rally killed more
than 20 people. The opposition branded it an assassination attempt
against Sheikh Hasina, a former prime minister.

In May, lawmaker Ahsanullah Master was gunned down at a League rally
near Dhaka.

"This is the second (Awami League) member of parliament to have been
assassinated within a year ... the country is being held hostage to
violent extremism and radicalism," Chowdhury said.

Kibria suffered serious injuries in Thursday's attack. He was taken
to a Dhaka hospital but died overnight, police said.

Chowdhury accused the government of failing to act to stop violence
against the Awami League, saying it "will merely encourage the
killers to continue with the killings."

Zia's political secretary Harris Chowdhury told AFP the government
would respond to the Awami League accusations later Friday.

Police are investigating the attack in which officers said a grenade
was thrown at the close of the rally.

A US embassy spokesman in Dhaka called on the Bangladeshi government
to "vigorously investigate" the attack.

Kibria's nephew also was killed and at least 70 people were admitted
to hospital after the blast. About a dozen were in serious condition
Friday, police said.

The grenade attack last August took place at a rally called to
protest two separate bomb blasts in the northeastern city of Sylhet.

05. Opposition-Sponsored Strike Shuts Down Bangladesh

Jan 29, 2005 New Dehli

In Bangladesh, the political opposition has called a general strike
shutting down much of the country Saturday. The Awami League called
the strike after a senior leader and four other people were killed by
a grenade attack at a party rally.

Streets in the usually crowded capital city of Dhaka were virtually
deserted as schools and businesses shut down at the start of a
three-day strike called by the main opposition party, the Awami

Riot police patrolled main intersections and troops barricaded the
downtown headquarters of the Awami League as hundreds of angry
demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans.

There were sporadic clashes between opposition activists and police.

Life was also paralyzed in other towns. In several places, opposition
supporters blockaded trains, disrupting rail traffic.

The Awami League called the nationwide strike after its former
finance minister, Shah A.M.S. Kibria, was killed on Thursday in a
grenade attack on a party rally. This is the latest in a series of
violent incidents over the last year and a half in which scores of
people have been killed or wounded.

Six months ago, Awami League leader and former prime minister, Sheik
Hasina, survived an attack similar to the one that occurred Thursday.

Sheik Hasina has accused the government of involvement. Her political
secretary, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, says the attacks are deliberately
designed to eliminate senior opposition leaders.

"This is not one incident; this has been happening continually. We
have now lost two members of parliament over the space of eight
months, and this has happened in constituencies, in regions, in
districts where the Awami League has a very strong organizational
base. It's elimination; it is political cleansing," he said.

The government denies the charges as "emotional outpourings" and has
ordered an investigation into the latest blast.

But concern is rising both in and outside Bangladesh. The United
States has condemned the latest violence and called on the Bangladesh
government to identify and prosecute those responsible for political
terrorism. The European Union has also expressed concern at what it
calls the apparent failure to properly investigate previous attacks.

This article uses material from VOA.