Bangladeshi protesters clash with police during strike

DHAKA,Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh security forces opened fire and used tear gas Sunday to disperse thousands of protesters who were enforcing a nationwide general strike they called to denounce violence at a previous protest over a visit by India’s prime minister.

At least one man was shot in Sanarpara in Narayanganj district after thousands of protesters, mostly students from Islamic schools, blocked a major highway connecting Dhaka with the southeastern port city of Chattogram, said Mohamamed Zayedul Alam, the area’s police superintendent.

The man was rushed to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment, he said.

Witnesses said scores of people were hurt in clashes with police, which started after protesters set fire to a number of vehicles.

Mohammed Russel, a duty official at the control room of the Fire Service and Civil Defense, said by phone that they dispatched several units of the fire fighters after information that some passenger buses and a truck were torched.

“But our teams could not reach the scene as the protesters blocked the approaching roads,” he said.

Similar clashes also took place in Sarail in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria when protesters attacked the security officials, the Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily reported. It said after the clash two bullet-ridden bodies were recovered from the scene. Local police did not answer calls from AP to confirm the deaths.

Security was tight during Sunday’s strike and traffic was thin on Dhaka’s usually clogged streets. Authorities deployed paramilitary border guards to Dhaka to keep order.

Sunday’s violence followed days of tension and clashes over a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that began Friday and ended as scheduled on Saturday. At least four people were killed and scores injured Friday in clashes between protesters and security officials. The clashes continued Saturday.

Critics accuse Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party of stoking religious polarization in India and discriminating against minorities, particularly Muslims. In recent weeks, demonstrators in Muslim-majority Bangladesh had urged the Indian leader not to visit and criticized Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for inviting him.

The Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, which has a network of Islamic schools across Bangladesh, announced the nationwide general strike for Sunday, to protest Friday’s events, in which its members were blamed for attacking government structures.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, an archrival of Hasina, did not support Sunday’s strike directly, but said the call for it was logical.

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