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Opposition leaders flee

- Police in Bangla raids

Dhaka, Jan. 9 (AP): Opposition members in Bangladesh have gone into hiding as police carry out sweeping raids after the country’s violent national election, a news report and a rights group said today.

The ruling party easily won Sunday’s election, which was marred by street fighting, low turnout and an Opposition boycott, with at least 18 people dying in election-related violence. The vote only exacerbated tensions in this South Asian nation, which has a grim history of political unrest.

Political violence has convulsed Bangladesh in recent months as Opposition activists staged attacks, strikes and transportation blockades to protest Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government. Nearly 300 people have been killed in the violence since last February.

After her party swept the largely uncontested elections, Hasina said on Monday that her first priority was to contain the violence with an “iron hand”.

On Tuesday, detectives arrested four Opposition leaders, including an adviser to former Prime Minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia. All four are still in jail.

Many other senior Opposition leaders, including a former law minister, have been arrested in recent months on charges of fuelling violence and also remain jailed.

Police say they are investigating the charges, which the Opposition says are politically motivated.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting BNP secretary-general said this week that hundreds of party leaders and activists had gone into hiding because of harassment by authorities.

Today, Kaler Kantho, a leading Bengali-language daily, named at least 18 leaders of BNP and its student wing who had gone into hiding. The paper quoted Mahbubur Rahman, a former army official and a senior BNP leader, as saying the government “cannot suppress the BNP this way”.

 
 
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