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28 March 2021

Bangladeshi protesters clash with police during strike

28 March 2021

Bangladesh security forces have opened fire and used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who were enforcing a nationwide general strike they called to denounce violence at a previous protest over a visit by India’s prime minister.

At least one man was shot in Sanarpara in Narayanganj district after thousands of protesters, mostly students from Islamic schools, blocked a major highway connecting Dhaka with the south-eastern port city of Chattogram, said Mohamamed Zayedul Alam, the area’s police superintendent.

The man was rushed to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment, he said.

Witnesses said scores of people were hurt in clashes with police, which started after protesters set fire to a number of vehicles.

Bangladesh General Strike (AP)

Mohammed Russel, a duty official at the control room of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, said by phone that they dispatched several units of firefighters after information that some passenger buses and a truck had been torched.

“But our teams could not reach the scene as the protesters blocked the approaching roads,” he said.

Similar clashes took place in Sarail in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria when protesters attacked security officials, the Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily reported.

It said after the clash two bullet-ridden bodies were recovered from the scene.

Security was tight during Sunday’s strike and traffic was thin on Dhaka’s usually clogged streets. Authorities deployed paramilitary border guards to the capital to keep order.

Sunday’s violence followed days of tension and clashes over a visit by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday and Saturday.

At least four people were killed and scores injured on Friday in clashes between protesters and security officials. The violence continued on Saturday.

Bangladesh India Modi (AP)

Critics accuse Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party of stoking religious polarisation in India and discriminating against minorities, particularly Muslims.

In recent weeks, demonstrators in Muslim-majority Bangladesh had urged the Indian leader not to visit and criticised prime minister Sheikh Hasina for inviting him.

The Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, which has a network of Islamic schools across Bangladesh, announced the nationwide general strike for Sunday, to protest against Friday’s events, in which its members were blamed for attacking government structures.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, an arch rival of Ms Hasina, did not support Sunday’s strike directly, but said the call for it was logical.

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