Bangladesh may delay polls following protests

More than 60 attacks on rail reported during three days of protests over timing of election scheduled for January.

    Bangladesh opposition supporters have derailed a train by destroying railway tracks in more deadly protests against the timing of an election scheduled for January.

    The developments came less than two days after the election commission fixed January 5 for the vote.

    Senior officials indicated on Wednesday the date could be pushed back to accommodate demands by opposition parties who are threatening to boycott it.

    Twelve people have now been killed in a series of street battles between the opposition and security forces since Monday, with five of them dying on Wednesday.

    More than a hundred have been injured.

    The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies want Sheikh Hasina Wajed to resign as prime minister to make way for a neutral caretaker government ahead of the elections.

    They organised a nationwide blockade of roads, railways and waterways for a second day on Wednesday, forcing the closure of offices and businesses throughout the country as well as a halt to public transport.

    Dozens of passengers were injured when a train derailed near the capital Dhaka after opposition supporters tore up sections of the track, as part of the blockade which has now been extended until Thursday night.

    Saidur Rahman, Bangladesh Railway's director, said the train tilted after coming off the tracks at Gazipur, a town north of Dhaka, after several sleepers were removed.

    Passengers suffered mostly minor injuries.

    "We have suspended at least 10 train services because of uprooting of rail tracks at several places," Rahman told AFP news agency.

    Protesters also attacked and set fire to a train in the western town of Chuadanga.

    Authorities reported on Tuesday at least 60 attacks on the rail network, with coaches set alight and track torn up.

    Aware that the legitimacy of any polls shunned by the opposition would be fatally compromised, election commissioners said they were prepared to push back the date.

    The chief commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, who announced the polling date in a televised address on Monday night, also gave a strong hint of a possible postponement.

    "There is scope for everything, if an understanding is reached," he said late on Tuesday.

    Hasina has rejected calls for a caretaker administration and instead formed a multi-party interim cabinet last week which is composed of her allies.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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