Bangladesh police clash with protesters calling for PM to resign:
Bangladesh police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to clear stone-throwing crowds blocking important roadways in the city, Dhaka, in a demonstration calling for the resignation of the prime minister.
Since last year, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its supporters have organized a series of protests demanding that Sheikh Hasina step down and allow a caretaker administration to oversee the January elections.
On Saturday, clashes erupted in many spots as police moved in to clear thousands of people who had assembled in the morning to obstruct traffic on important city arterial routes.
“Some officers were injured,” claimed Faruq Ahmed, a spokesperson for the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. “We fired teargas and rubber bullets.”
Ahmed said clashes between police and protesters took place in at least four locations in the city.
Agence France-Presse journalists at one protest site in Dholaikhal, an old neighbourhood that is now a hub for vehicle repair shops, saw protesters retaliate by throwing rocks at riot police and their vehicles.
Bacchu Mia, a police inspector at the Dhaka medical college hospital, said six protesters had been admitted to the hospital with injuries.
Ahmed said the senior BNP leaders Goyeshwar Roy and Amanullah Aman had been taken into police custody but had not been formally arrested.
Transport links between the capital and other parts of the country were heavily disrupted, with trucks and buses stuck in gridlock.
Hasina’s Awami League has been Bangladesh’s ruling party since 2009 and has been accused of human rights abuses, corruption and creeping authoritarianism.
Protests led by the BNP have become increasingly common since the start of the year, with rallies this month drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets.
Police arrested at least 500 opposition activists before a rally outside the party’s headquarters this week.
Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate in Bangladesh, where the ruling party dominates the legislature and runs it almost as a rubber-stamp body.
The government’s security forces are accused of detaining tens of thousands of opposition activists, killing hundreds extrajudicially and disappearing hundreds of leaders and supporters.
The US placed sanctions on the elite Rapid Action Battalion security force and seven of its senior officers in response to the alleged rights abuses.
The BNP’s leader, Khaleda Zia, a two-time premier and old foe of Hasina’s, is in effect under house arrest after a conviction on graft charges.
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