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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 09:55 GMT
Election protests grip Bangladesh
Young protesters in Dhaka light fires in support of a nationwide blockade, 12 Nov
Thousands of protesters took to the streets
Thousands of opposition activists are protesting in Bangladesh on the second day of a nationwide blockade to demand electoral reform.

Transport in and around Dhaka has been severely disrupted. One person died when a police van ran into protesters.

The opposition Awami League and its allies called the protest in an attempt to force the administration to sack election officials they accuse of bias.

An interim government is in power ahead of general elections due in January.

On Sunday, all major towns and cities were affected by the blockade, as well as the country's main sea port, Chittagong.

Protesters blocked railway lines and set fire to a train and a bus on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Elsewhere in the city, vehicles which tried to defy the blockade were reportedly set on fire or stoned.

Apart from protesters gathering for rallies, the streets were largely deserted, with many businesses and shops closed, witnesses said.

Disaster warning

Dhaka's police force said on Saturday it had banned "processions, rallies, demonstrations, sieges, sit-ins and blockades", as well as the carrying of potential weapons, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Map showing Bangladesh
The country's interim government has issued a statement warning of serious consequences if the transport blockade continued.

The action was "anti-constitutional and illegal" and in cutting off the supply of food and medical supplies risked creating a humanitarian disaster, it said.

Business leaders have also urged an end to the blockade, warning it could cost the country millions of dollars a day in lost export earnings.

The 14-party alliance led by the Awami League ordered the protests after Bangladesh's chief electoral commissioner and three deputies refused to resign.

The alliance accuses the officials of planning to rig January's elections in favour of the outgoing government of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. The commissioners deny the allegations.

More than 20 people were killed in clashes between rival political camps when Ms Zia's term expired in October.

The country's figurehead president, Iajuddin Ahmed, assumed control of the government after the political parties failed to agree on who should lead the caretaker administration to oversee the vote.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes of protesters demonstrating on the streets



SEE ALSO
Bangladesh poll chief to stay on
06 Nov 06 |  South Asia
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03 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Bangladesh rivals in key meeting
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Bangladesh approaches zero hour
05 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Timeline: Bangladesh
06 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
28 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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