The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Troops patrol Dhaka on eve of blockade

Dhaka Jan. 6 (Reuters): Troops patrolled the streets of Dhaka today ahead of a nationwide transport blockade called by political parties that are boycotting a parliamentary election due later this month.

The vote is set for January 22, but a multi-party alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said it will not take part, accusing the interim government charged with organising the polls of favouring her opponents.

People trying to avoid the blockade scrambled onto crowded buses, trains and ferries leaving the capital.

The interim government in charge of holding a free and fair election has said it will use troops to keep the peace in the run-up to the vote.

At least 45 people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between supporters of immediate past prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia and her rival Sheikh Hasina.

Khaleda, chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), ended her five-year tenure as Prime Minister in late October and handed power to the interim government headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed.

Hasina, who heads the Awami League and the 14-party alliance, accuses Iajuddin of favouring Khaleda in the coming polls and has demanded his resignation as chief of the caretaker authority.

The alliance has called for the blockade tomorrow in a new bid to force Iajuddin and some election officials to step down. Iajuddin has refused to quit. He is backed by the BNP and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police used loudspeakers to urge Dhaka citizens to stay calm and not to join the blockade that is expected to close down transport, business, schools and ports. “We urge you not to attend a rally or gathering carrying any weapons including wooden sticks or iron rods that could be used to cause violence or disrupt peace,” police said.

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