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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 00:29 GMT
Extortion claims mar Bangladesh festival
Dhaka cattle market
Cost of cattle rises to keep pace with exactions
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By the BBC's Alistair Lawson in Dhaka

Thousands of cattle and goats were slaughtered in Bangladesh on Saturday as part of the three-day Eid holiday.

Livestock arrived in all the major towns and cities of the country in advance of the ceremony.

Bangladeshi Muslim congregation
Eid-ul-Azha is a major Muslim festival
But the cost of transporting the livestock this year is higher because lorry drivers say they have been forced to pay extortion money to common criminals and evne the police.

Access to temporary cattle markets was barred unless a fee of between $5 and $10 was paid, the drivers said.

Crooked cops

Farmers such as Hussain say that they have been robbed of their income.

"We had to pay money at several points on our way into Dhaka.

"When we crossed key bridges, the police asked us for $4.

Cattle being ferried on a boat
Traders have to cross many obstacles
"When we told these people we could not afford to pay, they threatened us and left us with no choice," he said.

The farmers say that the extortion money they have had to pay is linked to the breakdown of law and order in Bangladesh.

The authorities say they are doing their best to combat the problem and have warned of stern punishments for anyone trying to extort money.

But the farmers say it is the police who have been as eager to collect money from them as the criminal gangs.

It is for this reason, they say, that the price of cattle is higher this year - in some cases exceeding $500.

See also:

22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Picture Gallery: Feast of Sacrifice
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Bangladesh cracks down on crime
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Eid fervour
10 Dec 01 | South Asia
Dhaka lynchings spread alarm
10 Oct 01 | South Asia
New Bangladesh PM promises order
09 May 01 | South Asia
Dhaka police fear crime wave
28 Dec 00 | South Asia
In pictures: Eid in South Asia
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