Blasts, Arrests Mark Bangladesh General Strike

Opposition activists in Bangladesh's capital detonated several homemade bombs and torched at least one bus during a general strike on Monday, as the country's political unrest continued. No injuries were reported in the blasts.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its 17 partners were enforcing Monday's shutdown, which is aimed at securing the release of 154 opposition leaders and activists detained this month.
Those detained are facing charges of attacking police and creating chaos during an anti-government rally that ended abruptly amid explosions and clashes on March 11.
The opposition alliance is also demanding a caretaker government be put in place to oversee elections expected to be held by early next year. Jamaat-e-Islami, a key opposition party, also wants to halt the trials of several opposition politicians accused of crimes stemming from the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated the trials in 2010 and three verdicts have been handed down. Ten of the defendants convicted or on trial are from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamic party, while two others belong to the BNP.
The tribunal sentenced a senior Jamaat-e-Islami party leader to death last month, a decision that sparked violent clashes between opposition activists and police that left at least 70 people dead in days of violence.
The opposition says the trials are politically motivated.
The latest general strike — a common political tactic in Bangladesh — saw schools and most businesses in Dhaka closed. Security was tight with thousands of officers deployed across the capital and traffic was thin on the streets.
Police detained eight Jamaat-e-Islami activists Monday after bombs exploded in at least four neighborhoods in the capital, said police official Anwar Hossain.
Fire official Brojen Sarker said nearly two dozen vehicles had been torched in Dhaka on Sunday.
Setting fire to cars and setting off small bombs before or during a strike is a common tactic aimed at scaring people into staying off the streets.
The strike was to continue Tuesday.


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