Bangladesh shut down by violent strike

2011-07-06 10:50

Dhaka - Police used batons to break up protests in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Wednesday as the country was shut down for a second time in four days by an opposition-led strike.

Dozens of vehicles were torched in Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong ahead of the 48-hour strike, and police said they had deployed 10 000 officers in the capital to prevent unrest.

"At least eight people have been jailed on the spot for holding unlawful protests and damaging vehicles," Dhaka police spokesperson Masud Ahmed said.

Home Minister Sahara Khatun warned the government would use a "strong arm" to deal with rowdy protesters and local media reported over 100 people had been rounded up ahead of the strike.

"We baton-charged protesters after they became unruly and attacked us with bricks. Two people, including the area police chief, were injured," police inspector Humayun Kabir in Mirpur, a northern Dhaka suburb, said.

Shops and businesses were closed, roads empty and transport between the capital and other cities cut from early morning. Cargo deliveries were also suspended at the country's main Chittagong Port.

Senior officer injured

"Magistrates have been deployed to hand out instant justice to those engaged in violence," Ahmed said.

Local media reported that opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief whip Joynal Abedin was injured after police baton-charged him in front of the national parliament.

The BNP and its Islamist allies called the latest strike to protest against changes to the electoral system, which they say unfairly favour the government.

A neutral caretaker administration has been put in place to oversee recent elections.

Although the system has delivered four fair polls in a country with a long history of political violence, it was scrapped last month after the government said it had allowed the army to take over power in January 2007.