Bangladesh bans night buses after bomb attacks

2015-02-10 21:20
Bangladeshi residents repair a boat on the banks of the Buriganga river during a nationwide strike and blockade called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance in Dhaka. (Munir uz Zaman, AFP)

Bangladeshi residents repair a boat on the banks of the Buriganga river during a nationwide strike and blockade called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led alliance in Dhaka. (Munir uz Zaman, AFP)

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Dhaka - Bangladesh has ordered long-distance buses off the roads at night after two petrol bomb attacks killed 16 people during a worsening outbreak of political unrest.

The attacks were the deadliest to hit Bangladesh since the violence began in early January, when the opposition called a nationwide transport blockade.

Junior home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said transport operators had agreed to keep buses off the roads after 21:00, although other vehicles would still run.

"No night coaches will operate until further notice," he told reporters.

More than 1 000 buses, trucks and vans have been fire-bombed in attacks blamed on opposition activists as part of the blockade, aimed at toppling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The spiralling violence has left at least 82 people dead, injured hundreds of others and cost the impoverished economy nearly $10bn, according to business leaders.

Millions of long-distance travellers rely on Bangladesh's buses, whose operators have suffered mounting losses since the blockade began.

Marcia Bernicat, the US ambassador, described the situation as "absolute tragic" after meeting the Bangladesh foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali on Tuesday.

"Everyone has a role to play stopping that violence. Bangladesh is blessed with democracy and there is a space within that democracy to resolve differences," she said.

Opposition leader Khaleda Zia called for the current blockade of roads, railways and waterways after police confined the former two-time premier to her office on 3 January.

Zia denies her Bangladesh Nationalist Party is behind the violence, but has vowed to continue the blockade until Hasina agrees to new polls.

Zia leads a 20-party opposition alliance which boycotted a general election last year on the grounds it would be rigged.

Authorities have deployed thousands of troops and police to guard vehicles and more than 10 000 protesters have been arrested, but the unrest shows no sign of abating.

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