June 11, 2006

About 200 hurt as protesters try Dhaka blockade

By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA (Reuters) - At least 200 people were hurt in street
clashes between Bangladesh opposition workers and police while
the activists trying to stage a blockade of the capital, Dhaka,
on Sunday, witnesses said.

Rock-throwing protesters fought riot police at Kanchpur on
the outskirt of Dhaka, in which at least 70 people, including
former army chief general K.M. Shafiullah, were injured.

Police, who retaliated with tear gas and baton charges,
detained nearly 50 people at Kanchpur, on the Dhaka-Chittagong

As the battle raged, hundreds of stick-wielding people from
nearby villages joined the protesters, forcing police to make a
temporary retreat.

The protesters burned several vehicles, including a police
car. Several policemen were hurt by flying rocks, witnesses,

Street battles also erupted at three places in the city and
in two areas just outside the capital. In all over 200 people,
including at least 20 policemen, were hurt, and several
vehicles damaged, witnesses said.

Leaders of the opposition Awami League had urged followers
to gather at city entry points on Sunday to lay siege to the

The opposition wants the caretaker administration that will
be appointed to organize January's election to be led by a
figure acceptable to all political groups, and the armed forces
placed under the caretaker leader's control during the polls.

Police toured Dhaka overnight with loudspeakers declaring
the High Court had banned the blockade and anyone participating
could be prosecuted.

Authorities deployed more than 30,000 riot police and
paramilitary troops in the capital on Sunday, home ministry
officials said.

Awami general secretary Abdul Jalil said the opposition
would call for an indefinite strike if the government tried to
foil the siege.

"I am warning the authorities against trying to stop us by
using force. The siege is our democratic right and we are going
to implement it," Jalil said.

Sporadic violence was also reported from Tongi industrial
area, on the city's northern fringe, where nearly 40 protesters
were injured and many detained by police, witnesses said.

Witnesses said city's inter-district bus terminals looked
deserted with virtually no customers. Ferries and trains moved
in the early hours of Sunday, but with very few passengers.

Nearly 5,000 opposition activists and suspected criminals
had been detained by police in the run up to Sunday's protest,
but they spared main leaders in the swoop.

(Additional reporting by Nizam Ahmed)