Two dead in Bangladesh clashes

Dhaka: At least two people were killed and scores of others, including policemen, injured as police clashed with armed protesters on the second day of a nationwide strike over the mysterious disappearance of an opposition leader.

The law enforcement agency men used gunshots and tear gas canisters to control over 10,000 protesters as clashes erupted at Biswanath, largely parlaysing normal life in the capital and elsewhere in the country, keeping most vehicles off the road and closing schools and shopping malls, witnesses and reports said.

The strike was sponsored by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, demanding the government to find its organising secretary Ilias Ali, who went missing last week along with his driver. Two unidentified men were killed and several others, including policemen injured at Ali`s hometown as violent protesters attacked a police station, prompting authorities to call out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops to help police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Equipped with homemade bombs, stones and bamboo sticks, Ali`s supporters also attacked the main government complex at Biswanath, destroyed official papers and torched the vehicle of the Administrative Chief Officer of the sub district, police said. "The violence also left several others injured and two of our policemen are being treated at Osmany Memorial Hospital with critical wounds," Sylhet`s police superintendent Sakhawat Hossain told PTI.

Police in Dhaka detained BNP`s vice-president and former minister Selima Rahman and 14 other opposition activists in the capital while the opposition claimed 371 of their leaders and activists were aarested during the shutdown across the country. The BNP said the protest will continue tomorrow.

"We are calling the hartal for the third day tomorrow demanding immediate return of our leader Ilias Ali and his chauffer Ansar Ali," party`s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam told a news briefing as the second day of the daylong stoppage ended amid violence across the country.

He asked the countrymen to observe the shutdown accepting the difficulties saying the government attitude forced them to go for protracted street protests which earlier left two bus drivers dead, one of them dying while asleep inside his parked vehicle on Saturday. The opposition has blamed security agencies for the disappearance of the regional leader. But the government has denied this, accusing the opposition of hiding him in order to create anarchy in the country.

The government had earlier ordered a massive manhunt to search Ali. In a related development a major Bangladeshi newspaper quoting unidentified "sources" hinted that Ali was in custody of law enforcement agencies as earlier reports said he was abducted by his political rivals.

The Samokal newspaper in its main frontage report claimed that the search out campaign actually was "eyewash" while behind the scene a negotiation was underway between the government and opposition about some "conditions" for his release. No senior leader of ruling Awami League or BNP commented on the report but RAB and Ali`s family binned it calling it "baseless".