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Anti-Regime Violence Spreads in Bangladesh

February 14, 1988|From Times Wire Services

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Protesters fought police and detonated homemade bombs Saturday as Bangladesh's opposition parties renewed their drive to oust President Hussain Mohammed Ershad. At least 35 people were injured.

A general strike, which was to continue today, shut down most shops and businesses in Dhaka and other major cities. It was the 23rd strike since the major opposition parties launched their anti-Ershad campaign last Nov. 10.

Officials said the first day of the two-day nationwide strike was partially successful, with most businesses closed, but with traffic remaining on the roads and trains running normally.

Protest Election Violence

The strike, initially called as part of the campaign to oust Ershad, turned into a specific protest against last Wednesday's violence during local elections that left more than 100 people dead. The government Saturday raised its official death toll from the election-day melees to 101. Most of the deaths occurred in clashes among supporters of rival opponents for seats on more than 4,370 village councils.

Unofficial death counts in Bangladesh newspapers put the figure at 135. Hundreds were injured.

Hasina Wajed, leader of the opposition Awami League, said Saturday she had reports of more than 350 deaths in the Wednesday rampages.

In addition, confrontations between protesters throwing bricks and bombs and police firing rifles and tear gas have killed 25 people by the government's count, 100 by Wajed's count, since Nov. 10.

A police official said protesters exploded hundreds of homemade bombs on the streets of Dhaka in the morning to scare people into staying home from work.

At least 15 people were injured, six seriously, when a bomb was thrown at a state-run bus in Mirpur, a northern suburb of Dhaka, witnesses said.

Rahul Amina, a student who accompanied one of the bus victims to a hospital, said some injured passengers fled the scene for fear of being asked by police to be witnesses.

Another bomb injured 10 people in central Dhaka.

Police, Demonstrators Clash

Ten other injuries were reported after police wielding batons clashed with about 100 slogan-shouting demonstrators in central Dhaka, witnesses reported.

Police posted outside Dhaka University accused students of hurling homemade bombs at shuttered shops nearby. Twenty-one of the country's major opposition parties began their campaign more than three months ago to force Ershad to resign.

Ershad, 58, a former army general, took power in Bangladesh in a bloodless coup in 1982. He was elected to the presidency in 1986 in an election the opposition contends was rigged.

In an effort to appease his political opponents, Ershad dissolved Parliament and called for fresh elections March 3. Opposition leaders say a fair and clean election is not possible under Ershad.

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