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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK

World: South Asia

Two dead in Bangladesh strike violence

A burning rickshaw in Dhaka: The opposition is protesting at tax measures

By Kamal Ahmed in Dhaka

A national strike enforced by the opposition parties in Bangladesh has left two people dead and caused considerable disruption.

Police said a 60-year old man travelling by bus was killed when he was hit by a stone which came from a procession in support of the strike.

The opposition parties were protesting at the new budget, describing the tax measures as anti-people.

[ image: One policeman was killed in the violence]
One policeman was killed in the violence
In pre-strike violence on Wednesday, a police constable was killed in a bomb explosion.

Police say the bomb - thrown from a procession by opposition supporters - left 11 other people injured.

There were angry protests from the police force as some of its members immediately took to the streets and smashed the windows of some cars.

But quick intervention by the authorities forced them to return to barracks.

Transport disruption

Long-distance road links remained suspended during the day.

Reports say some domestic flights were suspended during the strike and it disrupted train communications.

Government offices remained open , but attendance was thin as a huge number of people left the city for their villages effectively to enjoy a three-day weekend.

Businesses remained closed because of the strike and some traders fear the cost will escalate as the main port of Chittagong gets congested.

Chittagong has experienced at least 12 shut-downs in the last five weeks.

In southern areas, traffic was off the road for three days preceding today's strike.

Opposition seeks early poll

The main three opposition parties in parliament, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jatiya Party and Jamat-e Islami forged an alliance against the government a few months ago demanding early elections.

But the ruling Awami League rejected the call and blamed the opposition for trying to create anarchy in the country.

The opposition parties have, however, vowed to continue their campaign.

But this time - unlike last year - there have been indications that the campaign might be much less violent.

Observers believe that the pressure from the donor countries for tolerance and an end to violence has produced results and the opposition has now announced programmes for mass events such as holding meetings and rallies across the country.

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