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August 21, 2005 Sunday Rajab 15, 1426



BD paralysed by strike over blasts


DHAKA, Aug 20: Bangladesh was hit on Saturday by a nationwide strike called by the opposition to protest at a wave of bombings earlier in the week which has been linked to an Islamic extremist group.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia cut short a visit to China and returned home late Friday because of the coordinated blasts that killed two people and wounded more than 100. Ms Zia has labelled the attackers enemies of democracy and said they had an “evil design” to destabilise the world’s third most populous Muslim nation.

Security was stepped up to prevent any violence during the strike as police and the elite Rapid Action Battalion kept up a large-scale hunt for the bombers and their alleged leader, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, who shook the country with 434 small blasts on Wednesday.

Government spokesman Shahenur Mia, who gave the updated figure for the blasts, said 51 more unexploded bombs were recovered.

He said 123 people had so far been arrested over the blasts which occurred with the space of one hour in all but one of the country’s cities and towns. Of the suspects, 26 were being interrogated in a central unit in the capital.

Demonstrators staged marches in the capital and other cities, shouting, “Catch the bombers, the government has failed!” Dhaka police chief Mizanur Rahman said eight marchers had been briefly detained but no serious disturbances were reported.

“We’ve tightened security. There are more than 9,000 troops on guard in Dhaka,” the country’s Inspector General of Police Abdul Kaiyum said, adding the situation was calm.

The strike was called by the opposition Awami League and its partners, who have been waging an intense campaign to oust the Islamist-allied coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The opposition accuses the government of failing to crack down on Islamic extremism, corruption and crime..—AFP



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