130 injured as police, BNP men clashStaff Correspondent
At least 130 people were injured after fighting broke out between opposition activists and the police in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country on Thursday as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party staged nationwide demonstrations in protest against the disappearance of its leader Elias Ali.
The police swooped on a procession of BNP at Naya Paltan in Dhaka in the afternoon using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the
protesters who retaliated by hurling stones and damaging scores of cars parked at the roadside. At least four vehicles were torched during the violence in Shantinagar-Baily Road area in Dhaka.
At least 28 policemen were also injured in the clashes in Naya Paltan area, the police said.
Among them, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar police officer-in-charge Zakir Hossain Mollah and eight police personnel were admitted to Rajarbagh Police Hospital.
Sporadic incidents of torching vehicles continued into the night, fire service sources said.
Witnesses and party activists said dozens of people were injured in the police attack immediately after the procession began after a rally in front of the party’s central office as part of its nationwide demonstrations in protest against the enforced disappearance of Elias Ali.
BNP leaders who were leading the procession, including acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee members Moudud Ahmed, Nazrul Islam Khan and Mirza Abbas, joint secretaries general Amanullah Aman and Ruhul Kabir Rizvi and education affairs secretary Khairul Kabir Khokan, sustained injuries in the police attack.
‘The police tried to obstruct the procession but the protesters broke through the cordon and advanced and all of a sudden the police charged into the procession hurling a series of tear gas canisters,’ said BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan.
Several crude bombs also went off at around 6:00pm near the mosque beside the BNP’s central office.
After being dispersed, the BNP activists took shelters in adjacent alleys and hurled stones at the police. Police armoured personnel carriers fired tear gas indiscriminately along the Inner Circular Road.
Police cars hosed protesters with coloured water after they took shelters in various alleys in Naya Paltan area.
The angry activists vandalised over 30 vehicles parked at the roadside and set fire to at least three vehicles, including a police van, a microbus, and a bus of the public administration ministry in front of the Eastern Plus market. A car was also set on fire on Baily Road but pedestrians doused the flames.
People ran for shelters and shopkeepers pulled their shutters as the sudden violence spread panic through Naya Paltan, Kakrail, Shantinagar and Fakirerpool areas.
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed accused the police of pouncing on the BNP procession without provocation.
‘Though we had permission for holding the rally and procession, the police swoop on us like Nazis of Hitler,’ the BNP leader said.
‘It lends credence to our claim that the Awami League does not believe in democracy,’ he added.
Police’s assistant commissioner of Motijheel division Mohammad Asaduzzaman said that they had ‘intervened’ only after the demonstrators started hurling crude bombs.
‘The rally ended peacefully and the procession was also advancing peacefully. All of a sudden they hurled crude bombs prompting us to act,’ he said.
Asaduzzaman could not say how many tear gas canisters were hurled.
Home minister Sahara Khatun and her deputy Shamsul Haque, inspector general of police Hassan Mahmood Khandker and Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Benazir Ahmed visited the injured policemen at Rajarbagh Police Hospital Thursday night.
Fire Service and Civil Defence duty officer Bhajan Sarker said some unknown persons had set fire to a minibus of Choice Paribahan in front of Ananda cinema at Farmgate at about 8:30pm.
A car was torched by a group of people at Mailbagh level crossing at about 9:30pm, the fire service said.
Fire engines went to the spots and put out the flames, he said. No casualties were reported.
Reports from Natore said that at least 10 leaders and activists of BNP were injured as p lice charged batons on its procession at Chhayabani intersection of the district town. Police obstruced the procession at Chhayabani crossing and charged batons to disperse protesters leaving 10 people injured. The injured were given first aid in the local hospital.
Reports from Rashidpur of Sylhet said at least 40 people were injured as demonstrators clashed with police and Rapid Action Battalion during a road blockade in protest against the disappearance of Elias Ali.
Reports from Baralekha of Moulvibazar said at least 30 people were injured when police charged into a BNP procession to disperse it.
Angry activists in Khulna damaged at least eight vehicles when police halted BNP’s procession at Dak Bangla crossing. The vehicles also included one owned by a former lawmaker of BNP. Police arrested district unit BNP joint secretary Tariqul Islam on charge of inciting violence.
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