Tue, Nov 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Strike, clashes leave 25 injured in Bangladesh

DEADLOCK An alliance composed of 14 parties said it would continue to take nationwide action if the government does not resolve election problems


Violent clashes during a crippling strike left at least 25 people injured and dozens of vehicles damaged yesterday as Bangladesh's interim government intensified efforts to end an impasse over reforms.

Dhaka, the capital city of 10 million people, was cut off from rest of the country after protesters from 14-party alliance defied a police ban on political rallies that was issued on Sunday. Demonstrators blocked highways leading into and out of the city and prevented buses, trucks and cars from circulating.

The 14-party alliance, which was led by Sheikh Hasina during former prime minister Khaleda Zia's five-year rule, continued their indefinite strike at many locations around the country after the interim government failed to meet its demands by a Sunday evening deadline.

Bangladeshi President Iajuddin Ahmed sent three advisers to meet Aziz on yesterday, private TV station ATN Bangla reported.

"We will report the outcome of the meeting first to the president before making it public," Information Adviser Mahbubul Alam told reporters after the meeting at Aziz's office.

Alam said that the caretaker government "is doing its best to resolve the crisis."

Yesterday's clashes occurred between the supporters of Hasina and her rival, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, in two districts outside Dhaka, Bangla Vision TV reported.

At least 15 people were injured in Natore, a town 160km northwest of Dhaka, the Bangla Vision said.

In Narayanganj, a town near Dhaka, protesters smashed dozens of vehicles operating in defiance of the strike, the report said.

Hasina's alliance enforced a nationwide indefinite strike across the country to force electoral reforms and the resignation of top election officials they say are biased toward Zia's four-party coalition.

Streets in Dhaka were empty of most traffic and schools and retail stores shut down. Commuters relied on tricycle rickshaws, which protest organizers allowed to operate.

More than 15,000 security personnel were deployed to keep order in the capital, but no violence was reported.

Security was stepped up in other cities and towns where protesters were expected to gather.

Violent protests last week paralyzed the country's roads, rails and main port and left two dead.

Yesterday's protest was started after a last-minute meeting between Hasina and Ahmed, the leader of the interim government, failed to resolve their political impasse.

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