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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK
Clashes as Bangladeshis strike
Women protesters of the Awami League in Dhaka
The Awami League say law and order are still deteriorating
Clashes have erupted in Bangladesh as opposition supporters called a general strike to protest against rising crime.

Police used water cannon and batons against activists as trouble broke out in the capital Dhaka on Thursday.

The countrywide strike was called by the Awami League party hours before a new budget was to be presented to parliament.

The party urged people to join the stoppage to protest against rising crime, but the government said it was aimed at disrupting budget day.

Witnesses said at least two women members of the Awami League were arrested in the clashes, according to Reuters news agency.

The Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency reported that at least 20 people were injured in two incidents as police tried to bring activists under control.

As the eight-hour strike began at 6am local time (0000 GMT), the authorities deployed nearly 5,000 police and paramilitary troops in Dhaka.

'Sinister design'

Schools, shops and banks were closed, and transport in the country's cities and towns was disrupted.

"Law and order has deteriorated sharply over the last few months and every day on average 10 people get killed by criminals," said Abdul Jalil, general secretary of the Awami League.

He accused the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of being behind rising crime.

But the BNP rejected the allegation, saying the strike was a "sinister design by the Awami League to create chaos on the day the government unveils its new budget".

The action follows a half-day general strike called by the Awami League last month in protest against the reinstatement of a former military officer accused of killing four national leaders in jail.

Finance Minister Saifur Rahman was announcing the budget for 2003-04 on Thursday, but the Awami League has boycotted the parliamentary session, which began on Tuesday.

'Troop trials' in Dhaka crime fight
20 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Dhaka opposition seeks new direction
28 Dec 02  |  South Asia

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