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B'desh on strike over alleged extra-judicial killing

Police used tear gas in the capital to disperse opposition activists who called a national strike over the killing of a local party chief.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 14:37 IST

Bangladesh Police used tear gas in the capital on Monday to disperse opposition activists who called a national strike over the killing of a local party chief by an elite security force.

"Opposition activists became unruly and started throwing bricks and stones at our officers so we used tear gas shells to disperse them," said deputy commissioner of Dhaka police MahbubAlam.

The capital and other main cities came to a near-standstill as a result of the half-day strike called Monday by the youth wing of the main opposition Awami League party, officials said.

Private cars were off the roads and schools, shops and private offices were closed.

More than 8,000 police and security forces were on stand-by in Dhaka to prevent any violence, added Alam.

The youth wing called the strike to protest the death last week of one of its Dhaka district leaders, Imran Ali, in an "encounter" with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The US-based Human Rights Watch in its annual report in January accused Bangladesh security forces including the RAB of carrying out "extra-judicial killings" and estimated that some 300 people were killed between January and October 2005.

Awami League activists said Ali was killed because he protested an attempt to grab a piece of valuable land on the outskirts of Dhaka by people close to the leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which heads the country's four-party coalition government.

The RAB said in a statement that Ali was a listed criminal who was wanted in several cases including three murders. The statement said he was killed in an "encounter" between criminals and RAB officers.

The strike followed clashes between police and opposition activists in Dhaka on Sunday in which opposition leaders said at least 200 of their supporters were injured as police fired tear-gas shells and water cannon.

The stoppage is the fourth this year called by opposition parties.

Last year the Awami League and its allies called 18 nationwide shutdowns despite pleas from aid donors and business groups who say they cost the impoverished nation's economy tens of millions of dollars annually.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 14:37 IST