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Blast, violence kill 2 in Bangladesh

world Updated: Dec 18, 2011 20:23 IST

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Explosions rocked Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and southeastern Sylhet with the main opposition BNP activists fighting pitched battle with police leading to the death of two people, as the country marked the 40th anniversary of its independence.

Blast of home-made bombs killed a youth at Dhaka's Motijheel business district while the opposition activists reportedly also set afire five vehicles including a police van and a passenger bus as they clashed with police at different points in the capital, reports said.

The violence erupted after baton-wielding police dispersed hundreds of activists of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party trying to rally to mark the country's 40th independence anniversary.

"The device exploded with a bang apparently killing the young man immediately and critically injuring another passerby," a photojournalist who witnessed scene told PTI.

Police said they suspected the victim, 24-year old Arifuzzaman Arif, himself was carrying the explosives filled in a tin pot while they detained nearly 280 "unruly activists" from the city, 77 of them alone from the Motijheel area.

A television channel, however, quoted a younger sister of the deceased saying that Arif was not involved with any political party.

The second death was reported from northeastern Sylhet where a bus passenger was burnt to death when opposition activists set on fire to two vehicles and vandalised over a dozen others.

The yet to be identified passenger was burnt to death instantly as a Sylhet-bound bus from nearby Habiganj was torched when, his co-passengers, however, managed to get off immediately.

BNP's acting secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told newsmen that police launched attacks on their activists under a "previously designed plan" as they were trying to gather at Engineers Institution premises to join a reception of 1971 Liberation war veterans.

BNP said their party chief ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia was scheduled to attend the programme to honour 5,000 1971 freedom fighters.

The reports said the clash erupted in the morning when one of the processions of the opposition activists was intercepted by police at Naya Paltan area.

The reports said the violence quickly spread across the city with police in riot gears including tear gas canisters, rubbers bullets and water canons chasing the protestors and clouding the areas with thick smocks emitting from teargas canisters.

The violence came as BNP and its right wing ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami was waging an anti-government campaign after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami Lesague scrapped the interim caretaker government system for election oversight in line with a Supreme Court verdict earlier this year.