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B'desh arrests top BNP leaders ahead of nationwide strike

Dhaka, Nov 9, 2013 (PTI): 17:08 IST
Members of Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) stand guard on a street outside the office of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during a general strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh. AP Photo
Five top BNP leaders were arrested by Bangladeshi police ahead of a nationwide shutdown called by opposition parties to press their demand for a neutral caretaker set-up to oversee the general elections, sparking fresh tensions in the country.

Three members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's highest policymaking committee - Moudud Ahmed, MK Anwar and Rafiqul Islam Mia - were arrested by plainclothesmen here overnight. They were taken into custody while returning home after the anniversary celebration of a newspaper.

Later, police detained BNP chief Khaleda Zia's adviser, business tycoon Abdul Awal Mintu, and her special assistant Shimul Biswas.

Mintu and Biswas were whisked away from outside Zia's residence at around 1 am (local time), reports said.

Witnesses said police were deployed on the streets and around Zia's office and residence. A police officer described the intensified vigilance as "steps for her own security".

BNP alleged police carried out midnight raids at the homes of several influential party leaders who went underground to evade arrest.

To protest the arrest of the five leaders, the BNP extended the 72-hour shutdown beginning tomorrow by 12 hours, saying the strike would continue until Wednesday evening.

Angry opposition activists took to the streets, setting several vehicles on fire and exploding crude bombs. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Police sought 20-day remand for the five BNP leaders, alleging they were involved in an attempt to kill policemen and create unrest in Dhaka. The five leaders were shown as being arrested in two separate cases. They were produced in court this afternoon.

Information Minister Hassanul Haq Inu said last night the government was forced to arrest the BNP leaders in a "extraordinary situation".

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