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Bangladesh capital under siege ahead of opposition march

Saturday, 28 December 2013 - 1:47pm IST | Place: DHAKA | Agency: PTI

Bangladesh's capital was today under virtual siege with overnight stoppage of transport services with the rest of the country as main opposition BNP is set to defy a government ban on their protest march tomorrow, escalating tensions afresh.

Paramilitary troops patrolled city streets while elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police kept a sharp vigil at Dhaka's entry points amid the political face-off between the BNP-led opposition alliance along with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami and the ruling Awami League.

Transport operators said they stopped operating buses and ferries to and from Dhaka due to "security concerns" as advised by law enforcement agencies while pro-government transport associations called a two-day strike to protest vandalism during the past weeks of opposition protests.

Thick fog also halted ferry services in major waterways and highways linking the capital with major cities making it tough for opposition activists to march towards Dhaka in response to BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia's call.

"Most buses are not operating on the long routes apart from a few operators loyal to the BNP," the counter manager of a private bus service told a TV channel in Dhaka.

Zia last night urged people to rally in Dhaka tomorrow defying the ban.

But media reports said activists of BNP and Jamaat started moving towards the capital from yesterday evening well ahead of the programme fearing police interception.

The reports said many planned to reach Dhaka by tomorrow under cover of bridal parties as many wedding ceremonies are set to take place in the capital on the weekend.

The opposition BNP-led alliance is demanding formation of a poll-time caretaker government with an "acceptable figure" as its ahead replacing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and want the shelving of the January 5 election.

The TV channels said 100 activists of Jamaat were detained alone today as they were heading towards Dhaka in several buses from central Tangail district.

Meanwhile, police detectives have arrested at least seven BNP leaders including two lawmakers in the capital while sporadic incidents of violence have left two policemen dead so far and dozens wounded.

In the latest violence, suspected opposition activists in a pre-dawn attack hurled several patrol bombs at the village home of Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad in western Chuadanga today.

Police said no one was hurt in the attack as the house was vacant and an unexploded petrol bomb was recovered.


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