Opp leaders charged with Bangladesh blasts


Bangladesh police charged 28 opposition officials on Monday over a series of bomb explosions in the capital Dhaka, as a nationwide strike again paralysed the country.
Police said they had raided the house of the second-highest leader of the opposition, secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Alamgir, and charged other senior Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) figures. “Police raided Mirza Fakhrul’s house early Monday to arrest him. But he was not found,” deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Nisharul Arif told AFP. Nine small bombs rocked the capital Dhaka on Sunday, including two explosions inside the Secretariat, home to most government ministries and the cabinet office where the prime minister holds weekly meetings.
No one was injured and damage was minimal. The charges against opposition leaders risk exacerbating a deepening political crisis in the impoverished South Asian country.
BNP spokesman Nazrul Islam Khan said the charges are “false and fabricated”. “This is ridiculous (to say) that our top leaders and workers were involved in the bombings,” Khan told AFP adding the charges were aimed at “muzzling the opposition’s rightful protests”. The country’s deputy home minister Shamsul Haq said police had filed cases against the BNP leaders “based on concrete allegations”.
“The government will go tough on anyone found involved in violence,” he added. The BNP has been organising protests across Bangladesh since one of its regional leaders, Ilias Ali, went missing on April 17 in a case it believes was an abduction by the security forces. Police found Ali’s car abandoned in an upmarket district of Dhaka. His driver is also missing.
As well as the BNP secretary general, a former mayor of Dhaka and three members of BNP’s main decision-making body were also charged over Sunday’s explosions.
Police arrested dozens of opposition activists in connection with the violence and the torching of vehicles, Dhaka police spokesman Masud Ahmed said, adding that security had been stepped up.
Border guards have been deployed as reinforcements in addition to 10,000 policemen on patrol in Dhaka, as a strike closed businesses for the fifth time in nine days.
One opposition supporter was shot dead late on Saturday, raising the death toll to four over the last week.
On Monday, roads were empty, shops, offices and schools were shut while inter-district bus, lorry and ferry services were suspended.
In northwestern Rajshahi city, police broke up a rally of opposition activists after demonstrators hurled stones at them, deputy police commissioner Morshedul Anwar told AFP.
The missing BNP leader Ali is the highest profile opposition politician to have “disappeared” since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took power in January 2009.