Bangladesh today deployed the army across the country to contain deadly political violence ahead of the January 5 elections, even as nine policemen were injured in attacks by opposition activists.
"The armed forces have been deployed in aid to civil administration," an army statement said. The troops would act "as a striking force" until January 9 in line with the Election Commission (EC)'s decision.
The forces initially would be stationed at district headquarters but would gradually spread to nodal points of all districts, sub-districts and metropolitan areas, the statement said.
The statement made no mention of the number of troops in the field but EC officials hinted they could be as high as 50,000 and include navy and air force personnel.
EC spokesman SM Asaduzzaman said troops would be deployed in at least 59 of the country's 64 districts to ensure security during the polls, which are being boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The EC earlier decided to call out the troops but the announcement to deploy them came after suspected activists of BNP and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami hurled crude bombs on a police van and injured nine policemen in Rajshahi.
"Two of the wounded constables received injuries in their head...they are being treated in an intensive care unit of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital," police official Ziaur Rahman told media.
Unidentified persons also set ablaze the office of the chief executive of Laksam sub-district in central Comilla. Officials said no one was injured in the pre-dawn attack.
The political violence has escalated since the BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance refused to take part in the elections after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spurned its demands to quit and install a neutral caretaker government to oversee the polls.
The government last week called out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) along with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police to contain the political violence that has claimed around 130 lives since October.
Several hundred opposition activists were arrested after the forces were deployed in trouble spots like southwestern Satkhira, northwestern Sirajganj and northwestern Chitagong.
The military is guarding major highways and troubled areas to secure the movement of convoys as part of their annual winter exercise that began earlier this month.
The military statement said troops would ensure normal vehicular movement on highways during and after the polls while a "central combination cell" has been formed at the Armed Forces Division to help the civil administration.