Bangladesh interrogates arson suspects

(Photo: file, AFP)
(Photo: file, AFP)

Dhaka - The authorities on Sunday launched an investigation into suspected arson attacks at one of the largest garment factories in Bangladesh that produces clothing for Western retailers.

Labour and Employment Minister Mosharraf Hossain said: "Exemplary punishment will be a handed down to culprits responsible for the blaze. We suspect it was an act of sabotage." 

Hossain spoke a day after the Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association expressed concern over what it called a state of impunity for acts of destruction at factories.

The government named three committees to probe Friday's fire at the nine-storey building of Standard Garments, located 30km north of Dhaka.

The factory produced clothing for North American and European firms such as Wal-Mart, Gap and British retailer Marks and Spencer.

The blaze broke out just before midnight after workers confronted police over a wage dispute in front of the factory amid rumours that a worker had been killed in the clash.

The workers were demanding a monthly wage increase of about $66, about 77% more than the current starting salary at the country's numerous clothing factories.

State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Haque said the police had been interrogating at least 20 suspects detained so far.

"We will find the culprits who will face justice," Haque said.

The garment industry accounts for nearly 80% of the country's export earnings.

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