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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Army fights crime in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi army soldiers
The struggle against rising crime has not improved

At least one man has been killed and several injured as army troops began a major operation to fight a rising wave of crime.

The development followed shortly after thousands of army troops were deployed across Bangladesh early on Thursday to crack down on criminals.

The Bangladesh Government says the army has been called in to help other law enforcing agencies to crack down on criminals.

Buddhist demonstrators protest against the murder of a senior monk
Bangladeshis are worried over rising crime

The government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, which celebrated its first anniversary in power early this month, has been facing sharp criticism for its failure to improve the law and order.

The soldiers took up positions in all the major cities including the capital Dhaka, and began conducting raids to arrest suspected criminals.

They set up check posts near the airport and in other key points of the city.

Protests

A spokesperson of the Bangladesh army told the BBC the number of troops deployed across the country was the largest under any civil government.

He said, apart from those who were engaged in routine work, all other members of the army were taking part in this massive anti-crime drive.

Army troops in combat gear were patrolling the streets in cities and towns across Bangladesh.

In the port city of Khulna, a former opposition MP and several of his supporters have been arrested, for their alleged links to criminal activities.

Dhaka policemen make an arrest
Bangladeshi police force often overstretched

In Narayanganj, an industrial town near the capital, four middle ranking leaders of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party have been detained.

The arrests triggered angry protests in several towns in the north and southern region of the country.

In the northern town of Bogra, several hundred pro-government transport workers blocked a major highway to protest against the arrest of their leader.

A rickshaw puller was killed when army troops fired shots to clear the blockade.

Mixed feelings

This is the first time the government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has sought the help of the army to crack down on crime, though para-military Bangladesh Rifles troops were deployed in the past to help civil administration.

The army deployment has evoked mixed reactions.

Asif Hossain, a journalist in Narayanganj, said many people hoped the move would help in restoring order but others feared the army would also be used to persecute the political opposition.

Analysts say the deployment of the army is a sign that the civil administration has failed to improve the situation, a fact borne out by its move to seek the help of the army.

See also:

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