Bangladesh clashes over missing activist leave two dead


Lawmakers of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) clash with the Bangladeshi riot police during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on April 22, 2012.



Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of protesters in Bangladesh on Sunday, as a nationwide strike over the disappearance of a prominent opposition leader saw public transport and businesses across the country shut down and at least two people killed in sporadic violence.

More than a dozen activists were injured, four of them seriously, as clashes erupted in the northeastern city of Sylhet, the home of top Bangladesh National Party (BNP) politician Illias Ali, who has been missing for five days, according to Reuters.

In the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, where two small bombs exploded, 10,000 police were on patrol to prevent violence as shops and schools stayed shut and streets remained empty, according to the Agence France Presse.

Police said a driver sleeping in a bus overnight died when protesters set fire to vehicles in Dhaka, while on Sunday a man died after his car crashed into a roadside tree as he fled strikers.

In the northwestern city of Rajshahi security forces beat BNP activists with batons as they marched through the streets.

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Police found Ali’s abandoned car and phone in an upmarket Dhaka neighborhood on Tuesday night. He is the most high-profile opposition politician to disappear since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took power in January 2009. Ali’s driver has also vanished.

The Guardian, citing figures from local human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra, reports that more than 20 people have gone missing in recent months, many of them opposition political activists.

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International human rights groups blame the disappearances on the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and local police. The RAB denies involvement, claiming that many of those found dead were criminals and had been murdered by rivals or business associates. Hasina’s government has ordered a probe into Ali’s disappearance.

Opposition protesters called for the stoppage, in operation from dawn to dusk, to resume on Monday, and are demanding Hasina’s resignation and early elections, which are not due to take place before the end of next year.

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