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BNP trio held as protest continues

Awami League supporters shout slogans outside the high court in Dhaka on Monday. (AFP)

Dhaka, Dec. 30 (PTI): Three women leaders of Opposition BNP were arrested today on the second day of the “march for democracy”, as clashes erupted inside the Supreme Court premises between pro- and anti-government lawyers.

BNP vice-chairperson Selima Rahman, MP Rasheda Begum Heera and former MP Newaz Halima were detained when they went meet party chief former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The trio reached Khaleda’s home, cordoned off by riot police, on foot and asked the police to allow them to go inside, media reported. Moments later, the police escorted them and took them to a police station.

However, authorities allowed British high commissioner Robert Gibson to meet Khaleda for over an hour at her house.

The police said in a predawn raid three suspected Opposition activists were held from a house from where 200 homemade bombs were seized. The bombs are believed to be manufactured there to be used during the protests.

Several senior BNP leaders have been detained in the past two weeks and many others visibly have gone underground.

Today’s arrests came as a security blanket was thrown over Dhaka with troops guarding key points to secure them from the BNP-led Opposition movement that threatens to continue until the January 5 general election is called off.

Dhaka was effectively cut off from the rest of the country as bus, ferry and train services were suspended and roadblocks kept in place to prevent BNP activists from reaching the city.        

Violent clashes erupted this morning at the Supreme Court complex in central Dhaka with pro-and anti-government lawyers exchanging brickbats, a day after the area turned to be battlefield pitting riot police and ruling Awami League activists against lawyers supporting the BNP and its crucial ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Armoured personnel carriers were positioned at areas deemed trouble spots while paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh troops and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion forces patrolled the city streets.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stepped up her attack against Khaleda, asking her to stop killing people in the name of anti-government movement.

“You can wage anti-government agitation. But make sure people are not killed and children’s education are not hampered by your movement,” Hasina said.

In a press briefing, the BNP yesterday announced that it would stage non-stop sit-in protests like Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha across the country until the January 5 election.

BNP’s vice-president retired Major Hafizuddin Ahmed said the BNP-led 18-party Opposition alliance activists would gather on the roads, railways and waterways until the polls were shelved while “our march for democracy (towards Dhaka) will continue tomorrow”.

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