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Saturday 18 November 2017

Arson attack on Dhaka bus kills 7

The victim of a recent bomb attack lies on a stretcher at a hospital in Dhaka (AP)
The victim of a recent bomb attack lies on a stretcher at a hospital in Dhaka (AP)

Attackers have thrown petrol bombs on a packed passenger bus in Dhaka, leaving at least seven people dead and 16 others injured.

The attack, by an unidentified group, came amid a nationwide general strike enforced by an opposition alliance calling for new elections in Bangladesh.

Local police chief Uttam Chakrabarty said the attack took place early today in the eastern district of Comilla when passengers were asleep on a trip to the capital from the southern coastal district of Cox's Bazar.

He said the injured have been taken to hospital.

At least 53 people have died, mostly in arson attacks allegedly by opposition activists, since January 5 as the opposition alliance led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia launched a nationwide transport blockade to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down.

"I along with my cousin opened the window and got out," said Muhammad Shariful, a 19-year-old survivor. "Later we noticed that my friend had not come out. We searched the surrounding area, and then saw that he was lying at one side of the street with fire burning all over his body."

The bus had no security escort from the police or the country's paramilitary border guards.

Authorities blame opposition activists and hired thugs for the attacks. Zia and her aides deny involvement.

The opposition has also demanded that schools, offices and businesses close during a nationwide general strike that is to continue until Thursday evening.

Zia's party and its partners boycotted 2014 elections after being told there would be no neutral monitor overseeing the voting. That allowed Hasina to win a new five-year term. Hasina says new elections will not be held until 2019.

The renewed violence ended a year of relative calm in Bangladesh, where politics has long been accompanied by chaos. Political violence left nearly 300 people dead in 2013.

The bloodshed has been condemned by Western countries and the United Nations, which have called for a dialogue between the two sides.

But the Jamaat-e-Islami party, the main partner of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has remained a stumbling block.

Hasina has said Zia could help initiate talks by removing Jamaat-e-Islami from her alliance.

Jamaat-e-Islami bitterly opposes Hasina, who has targeted the party's leaders in war crimes trials for their actions during Bangladesh's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the nine-month war, which was led by Hasina's father, independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Eight senior Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, including party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, have been convicted in the trials and one has been hanged.

Zia was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, but failed to hand over power peacefully. A military-backed caretaker government ruled the country for two years before Hasina came to power in 2008 elections.

Press Association

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