Vol. 5 Num 930 Wed. January 10, 2007  
Front Page

Cops attack blockaders with brute force
Maul senior grand alliance leaders unprovoked; pickets retaliate by throwing hand bombs; country remains paralysed

Five top leaders of the Awami League (AL)-led grand alliance were injured as police assaulted them while using brute force to disperse alliance activists and leaders from around the Bangabhaban during a siege of it yesterday that triggered violent clashes between the law enforcers and the demonstrators.

Policemen in riot gear brutally assaulted the leaders at Noor Hossain Square and fired teargas shells inside the AL central office on Bangabandhu Avenue during the siege that was also marked by police-demonstrators pitched battles in Fakirerpool and Joykali temple area.

The leaders -- Tofail Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Nurul Islam, Dilip Barua and Haji Mohammad Selim -- fell to the ground due to the police beating without any let up in two to three minutes.

A ferocious attack by AL activists using brickbats and homemade bombs forced the police to retreat at least 50 metres and the activists rescued the injured leaders.

Besides, at least 50 demonstrators and policemen were wounded in clashes during the siege of the president's office on the last day of the alliance's three-day countrywide blockade demanding resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed from the post of chief adviser and announcement of a new schedule for the general election after 'proper updating' of the voter list.

The Bangabhaban was cordoned off by a heavy security net comprising several thousand police, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel. Five truckloads of army also patrolled around it frequently as the demonstrators chanted slogans like 'army-janata bhai bhai, Iajuddiner fanshi chai'.

Police and BDR stood in several lines on the roads leading to the Bangabhaban from Dainik Bangla intersection, and from Paltan to Bangabandhu Avenue.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) had already imposed a ban on squatting around the Bangabhaban to prevent a siege of it.

Reports received in Dhaka said BNP and its student wing's office at Peerganj in Rangpur was attacked and set afire on the third day of the countrywide blockade yesterday.

Besides, at least 35 people were injured in a clash between activists of the grand alliance and BNP in Netrakona.

A home ministry press release claimed that unidentified people set afire 15 to 20 bus garages at Aminbazar in Savar yesterday, damaging those. But Savar police said a bus garage at Aminbazar caught fire as a gas cylinder exploded yesterday morning.

A festive atmosphere at Bangabandhu Avenue vanished and it virtually turned into a battlefield as violence erupted at Noor Hossain Square at around 1:40pm and then spread to the adjacent areas.

This situation followed arrest of one Awami Jubo Mohila League activist from a procession that attempted to stage a sit-in beside police barricades near Noor Hossain Square. Alliance activists then hurled dozens of handmade bombs and volleys of brickbats from both ends of Bangabandhu Avenue at riot police.

Police then launched an all out attack on the activists forcing them into the AL office and to flee through Golap Shah Mazar area. Police also fired a large number of tear gas shells, at least two of those into the AL office. AL activists retaliated by pelting brickbats and handmade bombs from the roofs of adjoining buildings.

After a brief thaw in the fighting, violence reached its peak at around 2:30pm as a small procession led by senior alliance leaders, including Tofail, Menon, Nurul Islam, Dilip Barua and Haji Selim, approached the police barricade.

A section of alliance activists at the rear of the procession started hurling brickbats and homemade bombs, prompting police to go for indiscriminate beating of anyone before them.

The senior leaders, hoping they would be spared, stood still. But police became more aggressive as alliance activists continued to hurl brickbats.

Police then swooped on the leaders and bashed them with batons even after they had fallen to the ground.

At Noor Hossain Square, the assistant Commissioner of Motijheel Zone of the DMP was heard ordering his men saying, 'beat, beat.' When reporters asked about this later, he kept mum.

At that time police also forced out people from the shops around Moulana Bhasani Stadium and chased them away through Gulistan area.

Police swooped on a procession led by AL leaders AKM Rahmatullah and Haji Selim and dispersed it when it reached near Fakirerpool water tank at 11:15am.

Following the police clubbing, several hundred demonstrators darted out to the main road and different alleyways in Fakirerpool and started raining brickbats on the law enforcers. Police fired more than 100 teargas shells and rubber bullets on the demonstrators.

At least 20 people including some policemen were wounded as the fighting continued till 2:45pm. Police picked up at least 30 leaders and activists from the spot.

Alliance supporters exploded several homemade bombs during the clash.

Later, police allowed some innocent people trapped in an alleyway at Fakirerpool to leave the place with their hands up. Police also searched their bodies at the time.

Besides, clashes and chases took place between alliance supporters and police at Joykali Temple, BCC Road, Jugi Nagar and Ranking Street at noon.

Police fired at least 30 rubber bullets and teargas canisters at the demonstrators while the latter pelted them with brickbats.

Our correspondents report: Activists of the grand alliance set fire to the offices of Pirganj upazila unit of the BNP and its student wing JCD in Rangpur, and damaged at least 15 buses at Darshana on Rangpur-Bogra highway on Monday night.

Witnesses and police said the activists also attacked a rally organised by the local BNP at about 8:30 pm on Monday at Pirganj Bazar.

In Netrpkona, at least 35 leaders and activists of the alliance and BNP were injured in sporadic clashes between the two arch rivals at Durgapur, Mohongonj and Kendua upazila yesterday.

Besides, alliance activists and workers vandalised buses and trucks at Kaliganj in Jhenaidah yesterday. They also engaged in chases and counter chases with BNP workers.

Police club grand alliance leaders including Awami League Presidium Member Tofail Ahmed and Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon near Zero Point in the capital during the alliance's Bangabhaban siege programme. PHOTO: STAR