Bangladesh security forces yesterday arrested four university professors who were allegedly active in protests that erupted into clashes with police and prompted a curfew in six cities, officials said.
The arrests came in early morning raids before the government said it was temporarily suspending the curfew imposed after three days of unrest in the country, which has been under emergency rule since January.
Harun ur Rashid, dean of Dhaka university's social science faculty, and Anwar Hossain, dean of bioscience and general secretary of the university's teachers' association, were arrested, acting vice-chancellor Yusuf Haider said.
"At least 10 army officers came to our house in the night and said my father had to go with them to the police station," Hossain's daughter Dipannita said.
The pair have been vocal in their criticisms of the army and the military-backed interim government, which took power seven months ago following a political crisis that saw the cancellation of national elections.
They had also been active in the protests this week, which began after army personnel manhandled students during a football match on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday.
Two more teachers were arrested and taken from their homes in northwestern Rajshahi early yesterday, said the head of the city's university, Altaf Hossain.
Hossain said intelligence officers told him they suspected teachers at the university of instigating violence there earlier this week that left one bystander dead and dozens injured.
The detained academics were applied physics professors Saidur Rahman Khan, also a former head of the university, and Abdus Sobhan, leader of a left-leaning teachers' group, he added.
"Their families said security forces in civilian dress picked up the teachers from their homes," he said.
Universities and colleges have been closed under the curfew.
Meanwhile, streets that had earlier been deserted started to return to normal and people flooded into markets in Dhaka to stock up on food and essentials before the curfew was reimposed later yesterday, witnesses said.
The violent protests sparked by the incident at Dhaka University took place in defiance of a ban on all demonstrations as part of the state of emergency.
Students demanding that the army withdraw from the Dhaka campus clashed with police who retaliated with tear gas.
Non-students joined the protests which quickly escalated into full-scale riots and spread to other cities -- even after the government decided to close the campus army post.
The unrest has been the biggest challenge so far to the government of interim leader Fakhurddin Ahmed, who imposed the curfew in six cities including Dhaka on Wednesday night in what he said was a temporary measure to avoid "anarchy."
Ahmed accused troublemakers without any genuine grievance of hijacking the protests.
The curfew was briefly lifted on Thursday -- which was declared a holiday in a bid to ease tensions -- and the government said it would be halted for 14 hours yesterday, until 10 pm.
Bangladesh's emergency was imposed after vote-rigging allegations prompted months of violence in which at least 35 people were killed.
That led to the cancellation of elections which had been set for January, and the installation of the emergency government, which has promised new elections by the end of next year.