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Bangla bid to curb hill violence

Dhaka, Dec. 8 (Reuters): Bangladesh sent troops to the southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts today after rival groups exchanged gunfire as former tribal rebels called a strike to press the government to fully implement a 1997 peace pact.

At least five people suffered bullet wounds during the violence between supporters and opponents of the peace deal, an administrative official at Khagracchari hill town said without giving details. About 20 vehicles were also damaged, he added.

Across the region, streets were bare and businesses shut because of the strike. “Transport is off the roads and educational institutions and shopping centres are closed as picketers enforce a day-long strike in the region,” police said.

Many of the minority people in the hills are Buddhist and some feel threatened by settlers from the majority Bengali community moving in from the densely populated lowlands.

Separatists waged a 25-year insurgency in the 14,200-sq-km Hill Tracts bordering India and Myanmar.

But in 1997 the rebel group, the Shanti Bahini agreed to end its war, although some rebels rejected the treaty and refused to give up.

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