Thousands of security forces have been mobilised in Bangladesh to avert clashes between opposition demonstrators protesting against a deadly grenade attack and supporters of the coalition government.
The opposition Awami League was on Monday holding a 36-hour shutdown strike to protest against the attack on a party rally last month which killed five people, including a former finance minister.
The strike coincided with a previously arranged programme of rallies by the four parties of the Islamist-allied coalition government led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
In Dhaka and the southeastern port of Chittagong, police said thousands of extra forces had been drafted in to prevent clashes between supporters of the two parties.
"As we expect both parties to be holding demonstrations, we have around 10,000 police and paramilitaries on duty around the city. Normally we deploy around 8000 on strike days," deputy police commissioner Mizanur Rahman said.
Strike supporters set three buses ablaze in the capital Dhaka late on Sunday, but no one was injured, Rahman added.
"As we expect both parties to be holding demonstrations, we have around 10,000 police and paramilitaries on duty around the city"
deputy police commissioner
Private vehicles were off the road on Monday and shops, businesses, schools and colleges were closed.
The situation was similar in the country's other main cities of
Sylhet and Chittagong, police and witnesses said.
The strike is the latest in a series called by the opposition to
protest against the 27 January grenade attack in northeastern Bangladesh.
The rallies called by the coalition government were being held
to protest at the opposition's strikes and a series of unexplained attacks and bomb blasts in the country over the past year, officials said.
Targets have included shrines, cinema halls, and opposition political rallies.
The Awami League organised 22
strikes last year
Last year, the Awami League called 22 strikes despite pleas from aid donors and business groups who say such actions hit the nation's impoverished economy.
The party said it was highlighting the failure of the government to crack down on crime and corruption, but the government counters that it is working hard to tackle a difficult situation inherited from the former Awami League administration.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh editors issued a petition for the government to protect journalists, who have suffered frequent attacks.
Reporters have been especially targeted in the country's southwest, where 14 newsmen have been killed and scores wounded in the past 11 years.
"We are extremely concerned about the fact that journalists
are dying at regular intervals, yet the government and the
administration remain indifferent and unconcerned"
Editors of 23 dailies published from Dhaka in a joint statement
"We are extremely concerned about the fact that journalists are dying at regular intervals, yet the government and the administration remain indifferent and unconcerned," editors of 23 dailies published from Dhaka said in a joint statement.
"So far, not a single incident has either been properly investigated or the culprits punished. We think this fact alone may have emboldened the culprits and given them impunity to act against journalists," it said.
The statement comes two days after the latest victim, Shaikh Belaluddin, died of bomb injuries he received in an explosion
at a press club in the southwestern city of Khulna on 5 February.