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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 10:34 GMT
Four killed in Dhaka riot
Anti-government strike in Dhaka
Bangladesh has been hit by a wave of violence
Four people have been killed and dozens wounded during an anti-government strike in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka.

Violent clashes broke out as supporters of both the governing Awami League and the opposition parties fought pitched battles using firearms.

At least four others are being treated for bullet wounds

Dr Feroze Ahmed
The opposition want the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, to resign for failing to stop the violence which has claimed at least 15 lives in the past two weeks.

It follows a campaign by radical Muslim groups, supported by some opposition parties, against a recent High Court ban on fatwas, or religious edicts.

Policeman shot

Witnesses say gunshots were fired as pro and anti-government activists came face to face in the capital.

Four people, including a policeman who was trying to intervene, died of bullet wounds.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
The protesters want Sheikh Hasina to go
"At least four others are being treated for bullet wounds," Feroze Ahmed, a doctor at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said.

Leaders of the opposition Bangladesh National Party said armed men belonging to the Awami League attacked them at a rally.

The Awami League denied the allegation.

Sporadic acts of violence are reported to have taken place in other parts of the country as well.

Business hit

Most road transport and schools and some businesses have shut down because of the strike - the fifth this year.

Normal business is thrown off gear
Business leaders urged the government and the opposition to resolve their problems through dialogue.

"[The strike] hampers production and exports...businessmen have to bear all institutional expenses and bank interest for the lost working hours," the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry said.

Fatwa ban

Last week eight protesters belonging to radical Muslim groups were killed in violent clashes with police in a town 100 km south of Dhaka.

They were demanding that the court ban on fatwas be lifted.

The Islamists have launched a campaign against last month's court ruling, but the ruling has been largely welcomed by most mainstream political parties and human rights groups.

The BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Bangladesh says Muslim clerics, including unqualified religious men, often issue fatwas on family disputes.

The punishments they impose vary from public naming and shaming to physical mutilation.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh Islamists losing ground
06 Feb 01 | South Asia
Five dead in Bangladesh protest
08 Mar 99 | South Asia
Islamists condemn women's role
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