Police round up opposition in Bangladesh violence

The Anarchives (tao@presence.lglobal.com)
Tue, 27 Feb 1996 19:31:32 +0000 (GMT)


^Police round up opposition in Bangladesh violence@
(Recasts with police round up of opposition leaders)
By Anis Ahmed
DHAKA, Feb 25 (Reuter) - Opposition militants clashed with
police and fought gunbattles with government supporters on
Sunday in a campaign to force Bangladesh's newly re-elected
prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, from power.
Opposition leaders fled their homes as police searched the
country on the second day of a violent non-cooperation campaign
that has already cost two lives and injured some 130 people.
``They have chosen to stay away from home, especially in the
night,'' one opposition source told Reuters. ``This happens to
leaders in Dhaka and anywhere in the country.''
Police arrested four key opposition leaders on Saturday.
With business and transport at a standstill, police took the
side of pro-government militants in some street battles,
witnesses said. At least 60 people were injured, several by
gunshots, in the capital Dhaka and second city Chittagong.
At Chittagong port, shut since Saturday, battles erupted on
Sunday when shipping minister Shajahan Siraj failed to persuade
workers to return to the docks.
``Heavily armed pro-government militants, backed by security
forces, turned on the workers and opposition activists
supporting them,'' a Chittagong journalist told Reuters.
``An exchange of fire ensued as the fighting spread. About
40 activists on the two sides were injured,'' he said.
Ten more people were hurt in clashes elsewhere in the city,
witnesses said. Saturday and Sunday are working days in Moslem
Bangladesh.
In the capital Dhaka, opposition activists hurled bombs at
vehicles moving under heavy police escort and threw bricks at
police, who responded with batons and tear gas. About 10 people
received minor injuries, witnesses said.
Sunday was the middle day of a 72 hour national stoppage
called by opposition parties to protest against the alleged
unfairness of the recent general election.
It was won by Khaleda and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party
after a boycott by the main opposition parties, which had
demanded that a neutral government step in to run the poll.
The police round up of the campaign leaders netted Mohammad
Nasim of the Awami League, the main opposition party, and Anwar
Hossain Manju and Moudud Ahmed of the Jatiya Party. They can be
kept 30 days without trial.
Nasim and Ahmed were both arrested at their homes after
midnight on Saturday, relatives told Reuters.
Manju, editor of Ittefaq, Bangladesh's best selling
newspaper, was arrested on Saturday evening while returning home
from the Jatiya Party office.
Awami leader Begum Matia Chowdhury was arrested on Saturday
as she urged bureaucrats to join the campaign.
Police also raided the homes of Awami leaders Amir Hossain
Amu, Tofayel Ahmed, Abdur Razzak and Suranjit Sengupta on
Saturday night but could not find them, opposition sources said.
Witnesses said only rickshaws and a few state corporation
buses moved in Dhaka. Trains, ferries and inter-city buses were
mostly not running. The country's two stock exchanges, in Dhaka
and Chittagong, were closed.
Only senior employees turned up in government offices.
Private offices were closed. Most banks kept their doors shut.
Top officials and senior bureaucrats slept in their offices
on Saturday night to avoid street protests.
U.S. Congressman Bill Richardson, who has played peacemaker
in Haiti, North Korea and Iraq, arrived in Dhaka on Sunday.
The United States is Bangladesh's top aid donor and
ambassador David Merrill has tried several times to mediate
between Khaleda and the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina.
Richardson plans talks with both leaders. ``We have some
views and I will convey them,'' he told the official BSS news
agency.