General strike disrupts life in Bangladesh

Story highlights

  • Bangladesh's largest Islamic party launches a general strike
  • The strike is to protest the arrest and trial of the party's top leaders
  • Those letters face charges of war crimes during the country's war of independence in 1971

Anti-riot police patrolled the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country Tuesday as angry protesters took to the streets, damaging motor vehicles and burned used tires in a general strike, police and witnesses said.

Protesters from the country's largest Islamic party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, clashed with police in Dhaka and other major cities, blocking roads and highways.

The strike, taking effect all over the country, paralyzed daily life as road communications were heavily disrupted and schools and business establishments remained closed.

The pickets also damaged a U.S. embassy vehicle in the Khilkhet area in Dhaka, leaving its driver and a police officer injured.

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"No diplomatic staff was inside the vehicle, which was going to the airport," Khilkhet police station chief Shamim Hossain told journalists.

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami on its website claimed responsibility of the attack, but said it was "unexpected and unfortunate."

The U.S. embassy in Dhaka in a media statement condemned the attack and said, "The ability to engage in peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right; there is no justification for the resort to violence."

"We call upon the perpetrators to be held accountable for this unprovoked attack on a diplomatic vehicle and its innocent occupants," the statement said.

In many areas, pickets clashed with police, who used teargas shells to disperse angry mobs.

Jamaat-e-Islami called a strike on Tuesday to protest the arrest and trial of its top leaders, who face charges of war crimes during the country's war of independence in 1971.

It was estimated that 3 million people were killed in the nine-month-long war that led to the breakup of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh.

Jamaat opposed the breakup, sided with the Pakistan army and was later blamed for many killings.

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