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Police say one killed in Bangladesh strike violence

April 09, 2013

Bangladeshi activists from Hifazat-e-Islam want authorities to enact an anti-blasphemy law.—Photo by AP

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Rock-throwing protesters enforcing a general strike on Tuesday, clashed with police, detonated home-made bombs and attacked vehicles in parts of Bangladesh, leaving one person dead and dozens injured.        

A local police official said a truck driver died early Tuesday from fatal head injuries after being hit by rocks. The attack that killed the driver and injured several other people occurred in Bogra district 175 kilometers (110 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka. The police official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly.

An alliance of 18 parties were enforcing the nationwide 36-hour strike that began on Tuesday to press for the release of more than 160 opposition politicians arrested in the last two weeks.

Dozens of small bombs mostly explosives in tin pots went off in parts of Dhaka, where protesters clashed with police firing tear gas, private television stations Somoy TV and Ekattar TV reported. At least 25 people were injured, said the reports.

Calling a general strike is a common tactic in Bangladesh to highlight opposition demands, and the latest strike came a day after a hardline Islamic group enforced a shutdown on Monday to demand that the government enact an anti-blasphemy law to try those who insult Islam and its prophet.

Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation, is governed by secular liberal laws. In the latest campaign, the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its 17 allies want Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government to restore a constitutional provision that requires a neutral caretaker administration to supervise the next general election expected in early 2014.

Hasina abolished the system in 2011 after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

The 18-party alliance is also opposing trials of several opposition politicians on charges of war crimes allegedly committed during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War.

Most of the 12 suspects belong to Jamaat-eIslami, an ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by ex-premier Khaleda Zia.

Bangladesh has been hit by a series of general strikes since Feb. 28 when the war crimes tribunal convicted a senior Jamaat leader, Delwar Hossain Saydee, of charges of rape and mass murder and sentenced him to death.

Violence triggered by the sentence left about 70 people dead and hundreds injured across Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has a history of political violence. The South Asian nation has witnessed two presidents slain and 19 failed coup attempts since it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.