Firebomb kills 5 in Gaibandha, 375 opposition arrests in half a day amid several custodial killings

Police in action: Determined to hinder the ongoing protest by any means

At least five people, including two children and a woman, were killed in a deadly firebomb attack on a bus in Tulsighat area on Gaibandha-Dhaka highway at around 11:00pm on Friday. Gaibandha civil surgeon Abdul Jalil told New Age that four people, including a child and a woman, died on the spot while 29 others suffered burns. Among the injured, 11 were shifted to Rangpur Medical College Hospital from Gaibandha General Hospital, three of them in critical condition. RMCH sources said another child died on arrival at the hospital.

Police and locals said the Napu Enterprise bus with around 70 passengers was heading for Dhaka from Gaibandha when suspected blockaders hurled firebombs at it near the local Rural Electrification Board office at Tulsighat. Identities of the dead could not be known. The bodies were taken to hospital morgue for post-mortem examination. The latest deaths pushed the toll from violence, arson attacks and police firing to 77 since the blockade was enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance on January 5 for fresh elections.

The BNP -led alliance called a fresh 72-hour countrywide hartal from Sunday morning amid the indefinite blockade which enters 33rd day today. A transport worker was burnt by arsonists as at least four vehicles were torched in different parts of the country on the 32nd day of the blockade on Friday. BNP joint secretary general Salahuddin Ahmed in a press statement called the hartal in protest at killing of ‘numerous opposition leaders and activists’ in the name of ‘crossfire’ and demanding ‘restoration of democracy’ in the country.

At least two opposition activists were killed in police firing and nearly 400 suspected opposition men were arrested on Friday. ‘In addition to the ongoing indefinite blockade, a 72-hour hartal will be observed across the country from 6:00am Sunday,’ Salahuddin said in a press statement. The alliance in a statement urged its leaders and activists to monitor activities of law enforcement agencies in each area. It urged them to prepare lists of officers and employees who, it said, were ‘killing’ and ‘oppressing’ the opposition activists. The statement also urged them to collect necessary information and evidence, saying that appropriate steps would be taken against those officers. It drew attention of human rights bodies and international organisations to the matter. The statement was signed by BNP vice-chairman Selima Rahman who has been staying in the BNP chairperson’s office at Gulshan since January 3.

Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, has also called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for Sunday protesting at killing and arrest of its activists and demanding an immediate end to ‘state terrorism’. Local units of BNP and Shibir also called general strikes in Barisal, Rajshahi and Comilla.

Despite arson attacks, the number of buses plying long routes started increasing. Suspected blockaders hurled crude bombs at on-duty police at Shantinagar intersection in the capital on the day. No casualties were, however, reported. Miscreants threw crude bombs on the premises of ASP (headquarters) office in Feni on Friday morning. Besides, miscreants set fire to a room of the district primary education office on Thursday night.

At least three activists of Jamaat-Shibir were killed in ‘gunfights’ on the day as law enforcers continued drives to contain violence and arson attacks across the country. Nearly 400 suspected opposition activists were also arrested. An operative of an underground outfit was killed while making bombs in Pabna. Chhatra Shibir in a statement alleged that at least seven of its activists were shot dead by law enforcers and over 100 were shot in the legs after their arrests during the blockade. The BNP-led alliance on Friday asked the law enforcers to stop extrajudicial killings and warned them to get prepared for ‘punishment’ in future for their ‘misdeeds’.

Though most of the schools in the capital remained closed during the blockade, the Secondary School Certificate examinations began in tight security on the day. Suspected blockaders set fire to a bus at Merul Badda in the capital at around 10:00pm. A transport worker was burnt when suspected blockaders hurled a firebomb at a covered van at Rampur in Feni. New Age correspondent said that the victim, Bachchu Howlader, 28, was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in a critical condition. Besides, two cement-carrying trucks were torched at Palashbari in Gaibandha while blockaders set fire to a bus on Rangpur-Dhaka highway at Gokul in Bogra after driving the passenger out early Friday.

According to New Age correspondents in districts, at least 375 suspected BNP-Jamaat men were arrested across the country from Thursday night to Friday noon.

Our Pabna correspondent reported that a man was killed and another injured when they were making bombs at Dharmagram village in Sadar upazila on Friday. Police caught three suspects in this connection and also recovered gunpowder from the spot. Police said the deceased, Mongol Pramanik, 26, son of Abdul Malek of the village, was a former underground operative who later worked for the BNP-led alliance. Local BNP leaders, however, denied that Mongol was working with the opposition. Feni correspondent reported that police arrested a schoolboy, Abdullah Al Miazi Yeasin, 14, along with a huge amount of bomb-making materials at Rampur in the Feni town. He is a class IX student of Shaheen Academy in Feni.

Source: New Age