Bangladesh’s opposition has accused pro-government supporters of trying to kill their leader Khaleda Zia
after her car was shot at and stoned by a mob while she was campaigning in Dhaka’s mayoral elections.
Although Zia emerged unscathed from Monday evening’s attack, which took place as she stopped to tour a shopping district, supporters voiced alarm on Tuesday at the lack of protection from the official security forces.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meanwhile accused her arch rival of making an unnecessary “drama” out of the incident which has added to the tensions ahead of polling on April 28.
Zia, a two-time former prime minister who leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is hoping that a strong showing in next week’s polls will add momentum to her long-running campaign to force new national elections.
Fazle Elahi Akbar, a retired general who heads the BNP chief’s private security team, said shots were fired at Zia’s bullet-proofed car while she was inside but stopped short of calling it an assassination attempt.
“Her car was hit by a bullet fired from a pistol from a reasonably close range,” Akbar told the AFP news agency, saying there were bullet marks on the vehicle.
Several of her own security personnel were injured in the attack, although none seriously, the party said.
After recently ending a lengthy stint holed up in her headquarters, Zia has been campaigning hard in the elections, the first her party has participated in since it boycotted parliamentary polls in January 2014.
Television footage showed how scores of people attacked Zia’s convoy in the Karwan Bazaar district, smashing the windows of a number of vehicles with a combination of rocks, metals rods and staves.
The BNP called for a nationwide general strike outside Dhaka and the city of Chittagong – which both hold mayoral elections on April 28 – to protest against the attack on its leader.
The prime minister’s political adviser, H.T. Imam, said Khaleda’s party should take better security precautions in crowded urban areas because many Bangladeshis were angry with her over the protests organised by her party.
More than 120 people have been killed and hundreds injured in months of political violence, most of them in petrol bomb attacks on vehicles, amid transport blockades and strikes by the opposition aimed at toppling the government.
The BNP refused to take part in last year’s general election, saying it was rigged.