UPDATE - Dozens injured, arrested in anti-government protests in Bangladesh

UPDATE - Dozens injured, arrested in anti-government protests in Bangladesh

Opposition BNP, allies continue to protest for neutral election-time government


By SM Najmus Sakib

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) claimed Saturday that police arrested more than 100 supporters and injured about the same number of others, including with bullets in sit-ins in Dhaka.

A police vehicle and three public buses were set on fire, and several private cars were vandalized during the protests. The opposition and ruling parties traded blame for the incidents.

The opposition BNP is running a movement to push for a neutral election-time government while the ruling Awami League (AL) party is rigid on holding national parliament elections in December or early January under incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Meanwhile, a video that went viral on local media and television showed police charging batons and detaining BNP standing committee member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy from the protest ground in Dhaka. Police, however, released him later.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said it arrested 90 people for damaging public property and initiating an attack on police.

Faruk Hossain, deputy commissioner of DMP's media wing, said 20 police were injured in attacks by BNP supporters in different areas of the capital.

Police arrested more than 1,200 opposition BNP party leaders and supporters in the last three days as of Friday during a BNP-held grand rally in Dhaka.

And the largest Islamist party. Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, condemned the attacks by police. It said 200 of their leaders and supporters were arrested across the country.

The BNP announced late Saturday that nationwide rallies would be held Monday against police and the ruling party’s attack Saturday on peaceful demonstrators.

Meanwhile, AL took to the street Saturday, like every other day during BNP’s demonstrations, in protest against the opposition protest that AL claimed “disrupted people’s life” in Dhaka. The AL announced a nationwide protest Sunday against BNP’s “violence.”

The US and its Western allies are also increasing pressure on the Bangladesh government to hold free and participatory elections as the last two national elections were allegedly marred by vote rigging and non-participatory.

Earlier Thursday, 14 US congressmen wrote to the US ambassador to the UN to hold a fair election in Bangladesh under the mediation of the UN and neutral parties.

The Bangladesh government, however, views Western calls as foreign intervention in internal affairs.

The Foreign Ministry summoned 13 foreign missions Wednesday in an unprecedented move and expressed dissatisfaction about a statement issued that called for a fair investigation into an attack on an independent candidate during Dhaka-17 -- by-election on July 17.

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