Police yesterday arrested more than 200 opposition leaders, including BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, during a two and a half hours’ raid at the party’s central office in the capital’s Nayapaltan area.
During the raid, police and members of intelligence agencies recovered 12 homemade bombs from the third and fourth floors of the BNP headquarters.
The raid was launched around 6:00pm, after some homemade bombs had been blasted in front of Scout Bhaban, some 250 feet from the BNP rally held in front of its office, around 4:50pm.
Three to four minutes later Fakhrul announced a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for today from the rally, claiming that it was an attack on the 18-party rally.
Last night, the BNP standing committee at an emergency meeting threatened the government with enforcing two more hartals on March 18 and 19, if it did not release the detained opposition leaders by Thursday. The main opposition also suspended its national council scheduled to be held on March 19.
Before the standing committee meeting, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia also sat with the 18-party leaders at her Gulshan office. Police detained Jatiya Gonotantrik Party Chairman Shafiul Alam Pradhan on his way from that meeting.
Apart from the BNP acting secretary general, the detained BNP leaders include Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque, BNP Vice-Chairman Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, its Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed and BNP city unit convener Sadeque Hossain Khoka.
Meanwhile, pedestrians, who witnessed the violence and vandalism by BNP-Jamaat activists, praised the police for their patience. They said police had remained calm despite repeated provocation by the BNP-Jamaat men.
On Wednesday, police went hyper-active and fired rubber bullets immediately after some homemade bombs had been exploded at the same place as yesterday. The police action had left at least 50 opposition leaders, including a BNP standing committee member, injured. It is widely believed that Jamaat-Shibir men had blasted the bombs on that day.
Yesterday, the law enforcers exhibited patience even when the opposition supporters damaged trees on the central reservation and vandalised several buildings on the road.
They even kept their cool when Jamaat-Shibir men were distributing leaflets titled “Akranto Islam, jege otho musolman” [Islam under siege, Muslims arise].
But around 5:30pm, about 40 minutes after the blasts, police finally went into action.
Just before the law enforcers raided the BNP office around 6:00pm, a top police official of Motijheel Division was heard talking to his aide which this correspondent noted down.
The police officer told his colleague that he was acting as per instructions from the higher authorities.
“Shut up. Directions are coming from the upper level,” the police official replied when his aide asked why they had not started taking action before.
Another top level police official was heard speaking over the mobile phone. He was heard asking, “Sir, will we arrest all the [top and lower-level] leaders and activists in the BNP office?”
Within a few minutes of the raid police brought Fakhrul Islam Alamgir out of a closed room and got him into a police van.
Three minutes later, however, the law enforcers brought Fakhrul out of the van and took him inside the BNP office. He was detained again at 6:15pm.
Fakhrul along with 19 leaders was taken to the Detective Branch office later.
The Detective Branch at 6:55pm claimed to have recovered two handmade bombs under a box on the third floor of the BNP office. The DB police later also claimed to have recovered 10 more homemade bombs from different floors of the office which were later defused by the members of the Bomb Disposal Unit.
At least 10 vehicles were set afire and a numbers of cocktails exploded in different parts of the capital and some other districts last night, on the eve of the nationwide hartal called by the BNP-led 18-party alliance.
Police and fire service sources said four buses at Mirpur-1, Sayedabad, Kataban and FDC gate area, a taxicab at Rampura and a human hauler in Old Dhaka were damaged in the arson.
Miscreants also torched buses at Laldighir Par in Chittagong, Maijhdi in Noakhali and Trisal in Mymensingh and a covered van in Tangail.
Locals said pro-hartal activists vandalised at least 12 vehicles at a bus stand near Savar around 8:00pm.
Meanwhile, a rickshaw puller was wounded in a cocktail blast at Paltan in the evening. The victim, Mohammad Badsha, 35, has been admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital with injuries in his waist.