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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Crackdown on Dhaka bus crime
By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Bangladeshi bus
Bangladesh's transport system is overstretched

The authorities in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, have launched a campaign to stop extortionists from operating at several of the city's leading bus terminals.

Police say that transport owners, workers and passengers are subjected to threats of violence from criminals who have made thousands of dollars in recent weeks.

It is believed that criminal gangs demanding extortion operate at all of Dhaka's major bus terminals.

But now the Bangladesh Rifles have combined with a newly-formed Rapid Action Team in an attempt to bring the practice to an end.

Already 72 people have been arrested, accused of terrorising drivers and passengers into handing over money to criminal organisations.

The campaign has been instigated by the government, which says that Bangladesh's often chaotic transport system needs more discipline.

It is the latest of a series of anti-crime initiatives launched by the authorities.

Countrywide drive

Operation Spider's Web involving the police and armed forces is currently underway to try and restore law and order in the south-west of the country.

Last year the army were deployed across the country to help the police stop rising street crime.

Human rights groups say that several people died in military custody.

But despite these concerns, most people support any effort by the government to make Bangladesh a safer place.

One passenger here said that its already dangerous enough travelling on the country's desperately over-crowded buses without the extra danger of being coerced by criminals before the journey is even made.

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