One burnt to death, 9 vehicles set ablaze in cityStaff Correspondent
BNP, allies call daylong strike for today over Elias disappearance
One person was burnt to death and at least five others were injured as unidentified people torched nine buses in the capital on Saturday afternoon onwards, on the eve of the countrywide dawn-to-dusk shutdown called by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Violence at places across the country also marked the BNP’s nationwide demonstrations in support of today’s
strike called in protest at the ‘enforced disappearance’ of its organising secretary Elias Ali.
Elias, also the Sylhet unit BNP chief, went missing about midnight past Tuesday and remained untraced. The newly floated 18-party alliance led by BNP extended support to the hartal and vowed to stay on the streets during the strike hours.
Police fanned out across the city after miscreants started arson attacks on public transports in the afternoon.
The central office of the BNP was put under a virtual siege by the law enforcers. Police cordoned off the office building and plainclothesmen were looking for leaders and activists of BNP. The Rapid Action Battalion was patrolling the streets around BNP office.
Traffic in the streets was thin in the evening as panic gripped the city.
Authorities have postponed Higher Secondary Certificate and equivalent examinations scheduled for today.
The BNP in a pre-strike briefing last night said the government had unleashed a ‘reign of terror’ and arrested at least 150 opposition activists in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. The party’s joint secretary general Rizvi Ahmed said any attempts to obstruct the democratic right to enforce strike would bring ‘dire consequences’. He claimed that 600 party activists were injured in attacks by police and ‘ruling party goons’ across the country on Saturday.
BNP also threatened to enforce a ‘nonstop’ hartal if Elias Ali was not returned.
Home minister Sahara Khatun said that the government would not tolerate anarchy in the name of hartal.
‘We would not prevent the BNP from its planned strike, but action would be taken if they try to unleash anarchy by torching vehicles,’ Sahara said.
Nine buses were torched in the city until 10:45pm, the fire service control room said. The incidents took place near Eden College at Azimpur, on Abdullahpur embankment, at Khilgaon, near Victoria Park at Sadarghat, at Farmgate, at Mirpur, at Banani and at Gulistan, fire service officials said. A microbus of public administration ministry was set ablaze at Fakirerepool at about 4:30pm. The last bus burnt till 10:45pm was at Mirpur 10.
The fire service control room said that miscreants had started arson attacks on public transports from 1:30pm onwards.
At Khilgaon, a driver, Badar Ali Beg, 42, who along with his colleague Motaleb was resting in a bus of Eagle Paribahan parked at the roadside, was burnt to death when unidentified miscreants set it on fire at about 2:00pm.
Khilgaon police officer-in-charge Sirajul Islam Sheikh said that the bus was set on fire in front of Khidmah Hospital. Motaleb survived the fire but sustained injuries, the fire fighters said.
The flames in the bus at Gulistan were doused by pedestrians, while two others were put out by fire service personnel, fire service control room said.
Police in the afternoon dispersed a procession in Shantinagar crossing in the capital. Police also arrested seven people in connection with arson attacks on vehicles in Dhaka.
Dhaka district administration deployed 10 mobile courts in the capital to check violence before and during the general strike, said Mohibul Haque, deputy commissioner of Dhaka district.
Reports from Magura said police had used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a procession of BNP at Puratan Bazar and Vaina crossing in the town. A Chhatra Dal leader was also picked up from the spot.
At least 50 people were injured as police charged into a procession at Habiganj. Police also picked up four activists. The angry opposition activists damaged at least 15 vehicles.
At Melandah of Jamalpur, at least 15 people were injured as police charged batons to disperse a BNP procession.
New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported that Chhatra Dal and Juba Dal activists had vandalised at least 15 vehicles in Sylhet city on Saturday afternoon.
Witnesses said the Court Point, Zindabazar and Chowhatta roundabout in the city virtually turned into battle zones as angry activists of Chhatra Dal and Juba Dal, student and youth fronts of BNP, started attacking vehicles. The damaged vehicles included 11 CNG-run auto-rickshaws, one car and a jeep, they said.
In Satkhira, at least six police personnel, including an inspector of sadar thana, were injured as BNP activists hurled stones at law enforcers who had stopped their procession in the New Market area in the town.
Police arrested 11 BNP activists on the spot. Police also fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the marchers.
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