Nationwide strike continues in Bangladesh amid violence

Dhaka: A nationwide opposition strike in Bangladesh continued on Tuesday for the 16th consecutive day despite the end of the house arrest of BNP chief Khaleda Zia, as violence claimed one more life in the national capital.
A 30-year-old alleged arsonist was killed in a pre-dawn shootout in the capital’s Khilgaon when police raided the area on a tip-off to track down suspects who had attacked a truck with petrol bombs two days ago injuring six policemen.

This was the third such incident within a week when an alleged arsonist was killed in a shootout with police.

“The suspected criminal was wounded during the gunfight and he succumbed to his injuries as he was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital,” a police officer said.

The casualty was reported a day after Zia said the blockade would continue for indefinite period despite the end of her confinement at BNP’s upmarket Gulshan office where she preferred to stay back, saying “I have works to do there”.

Zia, a former two-time premier, was “confined” to her office since January 3, ahead of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 20-party alliance’s rally to mark the first anniversary of the disputed January 5 elections won by her arch-rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“It is my office. I have many works to be completed. So I can stay here as long as it necessary…I can stay here as long as I wish,” Zia told reporters last night at her office.

Zia said that despite the government’s oppression, her party has repeatedly urged it to sit for talks.

“But they (government) rejected our proposal…We had no alternative but to enforce a countrywide peaceful blockade. The programme will continue until further announcement,” Zia said after a meeting with senior BNP leaders.

Zia, wants Hasina to call fresh elections after last year’s controversial poll, which was boycotted by opposition parties on the grounds it would be rigged.

The siege around her office triggered renewed political unrest across Bangladesh that has already left 28 people dead.

The end of Zia’s house arrest coincided with the 79th birth anniversary of her husband and BNP’s founder Ziaur Rahman, an army ruler-turned politician.

Meanwhile, authorities have asked security agencies to update the list of attackers across Bangladesh.

“The police, RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), BGB (paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh) chiefs in their meeting with the state (home) minister today decided to update the list of culprits and intensify efforts to track them,” a home ministry spokesman told reporters.

In fresh violence, arsonists set a bus on fire in northwestern Rajshahi inuring three passengers in a predawn attack with petrol bombs.

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