Four killed as blast rocks Bangladesh oppn rally

Awami League calls 72-hour strike from today:

Agence France Presse

Dhaka, January 28:

Bangladesh’s opposition Awami League today said the Muslim-majority country was being “held hostage to violent extremism” aimed at wrecking its secular foundations after an ex-minister and four party activists were killed in a rally blast. The Awami League called a 72-hour nationwide strike from tomorrow to protest the killings as violence erupted in the capital Dhaka.

“If the government does not resign by this time, further action will be announced,” said Awami League acting joint secretary Obaidul Qader. Five League members, including an MP and former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria, were killed by a grenade hurled at a political rally in northeastern Bangladesh yesterday. Kibria’s widow Asma told reporters she did not expect to get justice for her slain husband. Asked about the perpetrators of the attack, she replied, “Better ask the alliance government,” the private UNB agency quoted her as saying.

Bangladesh’s government is a four-party Islamist-allied coalition led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.Scores of police baton charged Awami League activists and used tear gas in Dhaka’s university area today, witnesses told AFP. The violence broke out as party members filed past Kibria’s coffin which was placed at an monument marking Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, they said.Saber Chowdhury, political secretary to League leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed, said the killings were part of a pattern of violence against the party.

“It’s not an isolated incident, it’s part of an organised and coordinated design to eliminate the secular democratic and progressive forces in this country,” he said. “The theatre of terrorism has moved to Bangladesh.” Meanwhile, former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed the ruling coalition for yesterday’s grenade attack on her Awami League rally. Hasina burst into tears on hearing the news of Kibria’s death. Kibria had pulled up the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government for failing to nab those responsible for similar violence in the past. “This suggests they (the government) had backed the attackers in all these incidents,” said Hasina.

Speaking to reporters at her Dhanmondi residence here late last night, Hasina said none of those involved in earlier bomb attacks had been brought to justice. She urged the people to be united and bring about the fall of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government.