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Turmoil forces Bangladesh to impose night travel ban

10 February 2015 17:03

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Bangladeshi authorities have ordered long-distance buses off the roads at night amid growing political turmoil across the South Asian country.

Asaduzzaman Khan, Bangladesh’s junior minister for home affairs, told reporters in the capital, Dhaka, on Tuesday that transport operators had agreed to keep buses off the roads after 9:00 p.m. local time.

“No night coaches will operate until further notice,” media outlets quoted Khan as saying.

On February 3, attackers threw crude fire bombs at a packed bus and a moving truck in two separate incidents across Bangladesh. Sixteen people were killed and several others were injured in the attacks, which were the deadliest to hit the country since the latest bout of violence began in early January.

Authorities have now deployed thousands of troops to guard vehicles in various parts of the country.

More than 1,000 vehicles across Bangladesh have been firebombed in a series of attacks blamed on opposition activists in recent weeks. Transport operators have suffered mounting losses since the opposition called a nationwide transport blockade in early January.

Millions of long-distance commuters in Bangladesh rely on the buses, but they have faced frequent disruptions over the past few weeks.

On January 6, the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Khaleda Zia, the former prime minister, called for a nationwide transport blockade as part of efforts to overthrow the government of incumbent Premier Sheikh Hasina and pave the way for new elections.

Bangladeshi authorities have recently put more pressure on 69-year-old Zia, who has been confined in her office at the opposition headquarters in Dhaka since January 3.

Since the start of the blockade, over 80 people have died and a large number of cars and buses have been set ablaze or damaged. Several trains have been also derailed.

Hasina, who was re-elected in the January 2014 elections, has warned Zia of “dire consequences” if such incidents continue. The election had been boycotted by the opposition.

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