Bangladesh has ordered long-distance buses off the roads at night after two petrol bomb attacks killed 16 people in a worsening outbreak of political unrest in the country.
The attacks were the deadliest to hit the country since the latest outbreak of violence began in early January, and have shocked the country. Junior home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said transport operators had agreed to keep buses off the roads after 9pm, although other vehicles would still run.
“No night coaches will operate until further notice,” he told reporters.
Millions of long-distance travellers rely on Bangladesh’s buses, whose operators have suffered mounting losses since the opposition called a nationwide transport blockade aimed at toppling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. More than 1,000 buses, trucks and vans have been firebombed in attacks blamed on opposition activists as part of the blockade.
The spiralling violence has left at least 82 people dead, injured hundreds of others and cost the impoverished economy nearly $10 billion, according to business leaders.
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia called for the current blockade of roads, railways and waterways after police confined the former two-time premier to her office on January 3. Zia denies her Bangladesh Nationalist Party is behind the violence, but has vowed to continue the blockade until Hasina agrees to new polls. She leads a 20-party opposition alliance which boycotted a general election last year on the grounds it would be rigged.
Authorities have deployed thousands of troops and police to guard vehicles and more than 10,000 protesters have been arrested, but the unrest shows no sign of abating.