January 8, 2015 2:49:59 pm
Bangladesh opposition vowed to continue its nationwide blockade as three more people were killed in the violence after the first anniversary of the controversial polls, raising uncertainty over the annual Muslim congregation, said to be the second largest after Haj, scheduled to begin on Friday.
Two BNP activists were killed as thousands of supporters of opposition party chief Khaleda Zia, who has been confined to her office since Saturday, clashed with police late on Wednesday in southeastern Noakhali.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party alleged that the two activists were killed in police firing but police said they were killed after the activists attacked the security personnel, forcing them to open fire in self defence.
The third death was reported in Sirajganj, where a businessman, who was critically injured after anti-government protesters attacked an auto-rickshaw he was travelling in, succumbed to his wounds.
With the three more deaths, the toll in the nationwide protests rose to seven since January 5 when Zia called on supporters to take to the streets against the first anniversary of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s controversial re-election.
Police confined Zia to her office in the capital for the sixth day on Thursday in a bid to halt the protests which include a blockade around the country of highways, railway lines and ports.
The state-run railway service and private ferries operated normally on Thursady but the inter-city and long distance bus services stayed off the road fearing attacks.
The nationwide protests could cast shadow over the three-day Bishwa Ijtema set to begin from Friday in the outskirts of the capital. A delegation of Bishwa Ijtema yesterday went to Zia’s Gulshan office in their effort to persuade her to relax the siege for the Muslim meet, but according to local media reports she did not meet them due to “sickness”.
In a statement on Wednesday night, the BNP said its nationwide transport blockade would continue and asked people “not to be confused as the the government is spreading rumours that the blockade has been suspended”.
The Bishwa Ijtema, organised annually by New Delhi-based World Tablighi Jamaat near Dhaka since 1964, is not a formal Islamic ritual, but every year it draws tens of thousands of Muslims from across Bangladesh and other countries, earning the gathering the repute of being the second largest Muslim congregation after the Haj.
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