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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
Bangladesh strike disrupts life
Opposition workers during the strike in Dhaka
The opposition parties want the government to resign
A one-day strike called by opposition parties has disrupted normal life in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Transport was absent from most roads while many schools, shops and offices were closed, reports said.

The 14-party opposition alliance, led by Awami League party, is demanding election reforms and resignation of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The opposition has stepped up protests ahead of Bangladesh's elections which are due early next year.

A local news channel reported that the police fired tear gas shells to break up an opposition protest in Mahakali district, reports said.

'Over-use of strikes'

There was no official confirmation of the incident.

Riot police patrolled Dhaka and prevented opposition workers taking to the streets, witnesses told the Associated Press news agency.

Bangladeshi opposition activist in Dhaka
There have been clashes between the opposition workers and police
The protesters shouted slogans like 'Down with corruption' and 'We want Khaleda Zia to go' from their party offices.

On Wednesday, least 50 people were injured in clashes between police and opposition supporters in Dhaka. Police fired tear gas and fired rubber bullets as thousands of activists marched on the prime minister's residence.

Opposition leaders told Reuters news agency that the police had detained some 70 activists ahead of Thursday's demonstrations.

"The government let loose its pet police forces and hired goons to take us on. They unleashed extreme barbarism during our peaceful march towards the PM's office," Awami League leader Abdur Razzak said.

The opposition group, led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, have been organising protests to compel the government to make the Election Commission more independent, ahead of elections due early next year.

A ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader told Reuters that strikes "as a political tool have become blunt due to over use".

"So the opposition should exercise a little cool and wait for the people's mandate in a few months," Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said.

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