Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Bangladeshi police fire rubber bullets at crowd

AFP , DHAKA

Bangladeshi riot police try to disperse protesters who set fire to a pavement vendor's belongings during a clash in Dhaka, Bangladesh, yesterday. Riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse thousands of stone-throwing protesters demanding a postponement of this month's elections and electoral reforms.

PHOTO: AP

Bangladeshi police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters yesterday in response to stones and small bombs as a nationwide opposition blockade continued to paralyze the country.

"The protesters hurled many small bombs at our officers and we shot back with rubber bullets and tear gas. There were thousands of protesters, they were also pelting us with stones and rocks," said Abdul Quddus, assistant commissioner of Dhaka police.

Clash

The clash took place during an opposition protest in Dhaka's old quarter aimed at forcing a cancelation of elections later this month.

The main opposition Awami League and its 13 leftist allies are enforcing the second day of a 72-hour blockade.

Earlier yesterday police also fired tear gas and baton-charged demonstrators in central Dhaka.

Some 12,500 officers and thousands more soldiers were patrolling the streets of the capital.

The Awami League and its allies have announced a boycott of the Jan. 22 general elections, which they say will be stacked in favor of the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) without changes to the voter list and other sweeping reforms.

Killed

At least 35 people have been killed in unrest in the impoverished nation of 144 million people since the BNP-led government handed power over to an interim administration at the end of October, when its five-year mandate to govern expired.

The head of the caretaker government, President Iajuddin Ahmed, insisted late on Saturday that the elections would go ahead as planned.

"Under the constitution the caretaker government has to hold elections within 90 days, and so we have no choice but to hold the election," Ahmed told reporters.

Bangladeshi police had also fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters during rallies held on Sunday.

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