Bangladesh police out in force as tension rises over missing politician
Ilias Ali of opposition party disappears, with fingers pointing at Sheikh Hasina’s government and security forces
Police in Bangladesh used baton charges, live bullets and teargason Sunday in clashes with demonstrators protesting against the alleged abduction of a senior politician. The violence was the most acute for many months in the unstable state.
In Dhaka, the capital, dozens of small devices were reported to have exploded and 20 arrests were made. In the north-eastern city of Sylhet, 12 people were reported to have been injured and more than 50 detained in running battles. On Sunday night a tense calm had been established, although tens of thousands of security personnel remained deployed across the country in anticipation of further clashes on Monday.
The crisis was sparked by the disappearance last Tuesday of Ilias Ali, a key organiser with the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP). Ali was the latest in a series of political activists who have apparently been abducted, raising fears of a concerted campaign of intimidation aimed at opposition politicians. At least 22 people have gone missing so far this year, the local human rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra said. In 2011, the number was 51. Estimates of the exact number vary though all indicate a rising overall total.
Many local and international campaigners have blamed security forces, accusing the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and local police of eliminating opposition figures to benefit the administration of Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister.
Spokesmen from the Rab have denied the charge, saying that many of those found dead or who have disappeared were involved in crime and killed by associates or rivals. The director of the Rab’s legal wing, Commander Mohammed Sohail, said an operation had been launched to recover Ali and a search was continuing.
Speaking in Dhaka last week, Hasina suggested Ali might have been “hiding somewhere” on the orders of his party. Ministers described his disappearance as “sad” and “unexpected”.
Pictured: Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, claimed Ilias Ali may be hiding on the orders of his own party. Photograph: Faisal Al-Tamimi/AFP/Getty Images