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72-hour blockade begins today

2 more die, strike in Dhaka city tomorrow

Staff Correspondent

The BNP-led opposition alliance enforces a 72-hour countrywide blockade of road, railway and waterways beginning this morning demanding the cancellation of the national elections schedule and the holding of the elections under a non-party, election-time government.
This is the third spell of blockade after the second one for 131 hours beginning on November 30 and the first one for 71 hours beginning November 26.
The BNP’s joint secretary general Salahuddin Ahmed, now the party’s spokesperson, announced the blockade enforcement in a video message from an undisclosed location on Thursday. The blockade will continue till 6:00am on Tuesday.
The Dhaka city unit BNP in a statement signed by its joint convener Ali Asgar Matubbor on Friday announced a 24-hour general strike in the capital beginning at 6:00am Sunday in protest at the arrest of the Dhaka city unit BNP, Sadeque Hossain, also the BNP’s vice-chairman, that took place at night on December 4.
An engineer and two drivers, who earlier sustained injuries in blockade-related violence died in Dhaka and Sylhet on Friday.
At least 50 people were killed in violence after November 25 when the Election Commission announced the schedule of the national elections posting it for January 5.
The blockade beginning today coincides with the visit of the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who is due in town today.
Fernandez-Taranco is scheduled to meet the leader of the opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia, in her house at Gulshan this evening, BNP leaders said.
The BNP and its allies held ghayebana janaza for the activists, who died in blockade violence, in all cities, districts and upazila headquarters after the jumma prayers  on Friday.
In view of the blockade beginning today, panic gripped city people on Friday afternoon as blockade supporters started clashing with the police and damaging and burning vehicles.
Some Jamaat and Shibir activists clashed with the police at Uttar Badda after the jumma prayers.
They set a police car and a bus on far and damaged some other vehicles during the clash, DMP Gulshan zone assistant commissioner Nurul Alam said.
Witnesses said that Jamaat and Shibir activists had brought out a procession from near a mosque after the congregational prayers. As the police obstructed them on Pragati Sarani, chases between them lead to the clash when the police fired several gunshots and rubber bullets.
There were no casualties, the police said adding that they had arrested two Shibir activists at the place.
Blockade supporters also set a bus on far near Farmgate on Friday afternoon. They also burnt a microbus on Manik Mia Avenue.
Nilufar Yasmin, duty officer at the control room of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, said that local people had put out the flames.
Blockade supporters also exploded crude bombs near the Bangla Academy, witnesses said.
Truck driver Mehedi Hasan, 30, who sustained burn injuries when his during the blockade on November 30 in Faridpur, died from his injuries in the burn and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital at 9:20am, officials said.
At least 13 people have so far died from the injuries they had sustained during blockade-related violence only in the DMCH since November 25.
CNG-run auto-rickshaw driver Shoib Ahmed, 35, who became wounded after his vehicle had overturned when blockaders chased him at Dakkhin Surma in Sylhet on December 5, died in MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital in Sylhet about 6:30am on Friday.
Engineer Ratan Kumar Saha, who sustained injuries in an attack on a bus at Savar on December 2, died in Square Hospitals about 1:00am on Friday.
Ratan worked in a factory owned the prime minister’s adviser Anwar Hossain Manju at Savar.

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