Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Demonstrators set train ablaze

AP , DHAKA

Bangladeshi women activists from the Awami League attend a protest rally during the non-stop countrywide blockade at Dhanmondi Dhaka yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Protesters set fire to a train near the Bangladeshi capital yesterday as thousands of people demonstrated during a nationwide strike demanding electoral reforms, media reports said.

About 15,000 security officials, including members of a paramilitary force, were deployed.

Thousands of people took to the streets to defy a ban on political gatherings and rallies that was ordered by the police after a 14-party alliance said on Saturday it would choke roads and rail links to Dhaka to press for the resignation of election officials accused of bias in January polls.

Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina said that the caretaker government had failed to meet their demands for ensuring free and fair elections.

The protesters blocked rail tracks and later set fire to a train in Tongi, just outside the capital. Passengers had escaped from the train after it was blocked by the protesters and before it was set on fire.

Separately, a group of protesters attacked a train in eastern district of Brahmanbaria, 80km east of Dhaka, reports said. It was not clear immediately if anyone was injured in the attacks on the trains.

In Dhaka, public transport were disrupted and only a few tricycle rickshaws were plying the roads.

The protesters smashed several vehicles that tried to defy the strike call in the capital.

Activities in the country's main Chittagong seaport were halted and train communications were also disrupted.

Hundreds of alliance supporters demonstrated in Dhaka's Dhanmondi residential district and in front of the Awami League's party headquarters in downtown Dhaka.

The alliance has been demanding the removal of the Chief Election Commissioner M. A. Aziz and his three deputies, accusing them of favoring former prime minister Khaleda Zia's four-party coalition. Aziz denies the allegation and has refused to resign.

In a statement on Saturday, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police said it had banned "processions, rallies, demonstrations, sieges, sit-ins and blockades" as well as carrying arms, sticks, oars, explosives and other items which could have been used as weapons.

Yesterday's protests came almost two weeks after deadly riots over an alleged attempt to rig the upcoming election left at least 27 people dead.

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