Bangladesh police use batons to clear protesters

AP News
Posted: Dec 04, 2011 2:03 AM
Bangladesh police use batons to clear protesters

Police used batons to disperse opposition activists taking part in a general strike in Bangladesh's capital on Sunday. A party official said eight people were injured.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, is protesting a government decision to divide Dhaka into two administrative zones, a plan they say is aimed at removing the opposition-backed mayor.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Zia's archrival, says the split is needed to provide better services to residents. Dhaka is a teeming city of 10 million people with poor infrastructure.

Amid an opposition boycott, the government passed a law in Parliament on Tuesday to appoint administrators for the two zones.

Schools and businesses were shut during the daylong general strike Sunday. A few vehicles were moving in the usually clogged streets.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a senior opposition party official, said at least eight demonstrators were injured in the dispersal, which took place in front of the party's headquarters.

He said at least 85 opposition supporters were arrested Saturday, the eve of the strike.

"The government has unleashed a reign of terror to frighten opposition activists," Alamgir told reporters Sunday. "Police are out to halt our peaceful protests."

Police say their goal is to maintain order, with some 10,000 security officials deployed in the city.

"It is our duty to protect the people and their property," said Mehedy Hasan, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official.

Opposition and government supporters clashed briefly in a separate incident Sunday in which several people were hurt, said APTN cameraman Al Emrun Gorjon, who suffered a head injury.

He said the clash broke out after opposition demonstrators hurled stones at a passing bus. Nearby government supporters then clashed with the demonstrators before police arrived, he said.