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Over 40 political leaders arrested

world Updated: May 31, 2008 20:03 IST

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More than 40 people, including local leaders of various political parties, were arrested by army-led joint forces in emergency-ruled Bangladesh overnight in what the authorities called a anti-crime crackdown.

Police officials denied any political link to the fresh wave of arrests, maintaining that they were only "targeting terrorists, listed and wanted criminals and extortionists."

"We have launched the campaign last night and it will continue simultaneously across the country for the next one month," Inspector General of Police Noor Mohammad told PTI.

Reports from different parts of the country said the joint forces so far arrested more than 40 people, including local leaders of different political parties like Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Officials said one former BNP MP was also among the arrested.

Different units of army, elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police raided the hideouts and houses of suspected criminals, mostly in the crime-prone western region.

Mohammad denied that the crackdown was targeting political activists and said "it's a routine campaign which we have launched for a particular period after a long gap."

It is the second such campaign after the current interim government was installed with crucial military support after clamping of emergency in the country on January 11 last year.

Soon after coming to power, the government launched a massive anti-graft drive which saw the detention or imprisonment of more than 100 high-profile people, mostly politicians including former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, the leaders of AL and BNP, respectively.

The new campaign came just 17 days after the government relaxed a ban on indoor politics on June 13.