Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged students to go home as police fired tear gas during an eighth day of unprecedented protests over road safety, after the government on Saturday shut down mobile Internet in the country.
Students in their tens of thousands have brought parts of the capital, Dhaka, to a standstill after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.
The unrest quickly spread beyond the capital.
The protests on Saturday took a violent turn in Dhaka’s Jigatala neighborhood, with more than 100 people injured as police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators.
Police yesterday began cracking down on dangerous driving as the government tried to quell the unrest.
“Our police force has started a week-long drive to bring discipline on the roads,” Hasina said at an event in Dhaka.
On Saturday, a car carrying US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat was attacked by “armed men,” but she escaped unscathed, the US embassy said.
“As she was leaving about 11pm and getting into her car, a group attacked her car,” said rights activist Badiul Alam Majumder, who was hosting the ambassador for dinner.
The US embassy confirmed an official vehicle “was attacked by a group of armed adult men,” but the envoy and her team had departed unharmed.
The protests continued yesterday, with police firing tear gas into a large crowd marching toward an office of the ruling Awami League party, a reporter said.
Hasina said that a “third party” could sabotage the protests and put the safety of demonstrators at risk.
“That’s why I request all guardians and parents to keep their children at home. Whatever they have done is enough,” she said from her office.
Some youngsters were rushed to hospital on Saturday after being attacked, allegedly by pro-government people, witnesses said.
Hasina’s warning came as protesters marched toward the scene of Saturday’s clashes, chanting “We want justice.”
Police have denied they fired rubber bullets or tear gas at the protesters.
However, hospital staff said dozens of people had been injured, some seriously, and injuries were consistent with rubber bullets.
The Awami League has denied allegations that its officials beat up students.
Prothom Alo, the country’s biggest-circulation newspaper, said 3G and 4G Internet services have been shut down for 24 hours since late Saturday, shortly after the violence broke out.
Social media has been filled with comments from Bangladeshis unable to access the Internet via their mobile phones, although wireless and wired networks appeared to be unhindered.
“The BTRC has slowed down the Internet at the order of the government,” a senior telecoms official said on condition of anonymity.
The move might be an attempt to try and limit the ability of students to mobilize or express growing online anger at how the government has handled the protests, hours after police and unidentified men wielding sticks and stones clashed with students.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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