BNP Leader Among 8 Arrested. 2 Schools Chosen As Polling Stations Set Ablaze

Dhaka police arrested eight individuals on Saturday, including a major leader of the opposition BNP, in connection with an arson assault on a train in the centre of Dhaka on Friday that killed at least four people, just days before elections in Bangladesh that the opposition has boycotted, news agency PTI reported. Four carriages of the Benapole Express, which operates from Benapole in West Bengal, were set on fire around 9 p.m. on Friday in the Gopibagh neighbourhood, less than two kilometres from the capital’s Kamalapur Railway Station.

Nabi Ullah Nabi, joint convener of the BNP’s Dhaka south city section, and five Jubo Dal members were among those detained. Jubo Dal is the youth arm of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

“Nabi Ullah Nabi and Jubo Dal activist Mansur Alam were among the planners and financers of the arson attack on the train, which was planned through a video conference,” The Daily Star newspaper quoted Harunor Rashid, Chief of Detective Branch (DB) of police and also the Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) in its report.

“At least 12-13 Jubo Dal unit leaders including Mansur held a video conference on Thursday around 6:00 pm. They planned arson attacks in Kishorganj-Narsingdi and Narayanganj-Kamalapur routes and crude bomb attacks at various polling centres in different wards,” Harun informed media at the DMP media centre.

The Daily Star further reported, citing DB chief Harun, that police had recovered video conference clips. “One of them agreed to execute the arson attack on the train. Nabi was not present at the video conference, but was one of the financiers and advisors of the attack,” he said.

The DB chief identified the other six arrested and stated: “The planners engaged known criminals for the arson attack. Detectives got their names and were trying to arrest them.”

The BNP, led by former Prime Minister Khalida Zia, has called for a UN-supervised investigation into the incident, calling it a “pre-planned” act of sabotage ahead of Sunday’s general elections, which the party has boycotted and called for a 48-hour nationwide strike beginning at 6:00 a.m. Saturday.

BNP senior Joint Secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi issued a statement expressing worry about the “heartbreaking” event of casualties “due to arson by miscreants” on the Benapole Express train.

“There is no doubt that the Benapole Express train fire was an act of sabotage, leading to the loss of life,” The Daily Star newspaper quoted Rizvi as saying and further stated that the BNP leader called for a UN-supervised investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, the Dhaka Tribune claimed that the Bangladesh Railways has constituted a seven-member committee to examine the event, determine the cause, and assign blame.

Three of the four coaches were fully burned. According to railway officials, the majority of the train’s almost 292 passengers were returning from India.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her great shock and sadness over the death of four people and urged the authorities to examine whether the fire was the result of sabotage.

More than 100 international observers, including three from India, have arrived in Dhaka to oversee Sunday’s general election, which begins at 8:00 a.m.

The BNP, led by former Prime Minister Khalida Zia, is boycotting the general election because it wants an interim non-party neutral administration to run the poll, a demand denied by Hasina’s government, which is also the leader of the governing Awami League (AL).

Several train-related arson events occurred in the run-up to the January elections in Bangladesh, alongside other episodes of violence in previous months.

A train carrying 300 people narrowly avoided a serious catastrophe on January 2 after suspected saboteurs removed 28 dog spikes or hooks from the rails of a railway bridge in northern Bangladesh.

On December 19, an unnamed individual set fire to a train, killing four people, including a mother and child, during a statewide strike organised by the opposition.

Earlier this month, one passenger was murdered and several were injured when saboteurs destroyed railway rails in Gazipur, on the outskirts of the city, when seven trains derailed.

The Awami League accused the BNP of sabotage, which the BNP rejected.

Two Schools Designated As Polling Stations Set On Fire In Bangladesh

Unknown arsonists set fire to at least two voting stations in Bangladesh on Saturday, as the country prepared for parliamentary elections on January 7, PTI reported. Arsonists set fire to the Nischinta Para Government Primary School at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday in Chittagong’s Patenga EPZ region, officials said.

“Arsonists set the school’s headmaster’s room on fire. New books which were kept in the room were burnt,” Shakila Soltana, Deputy Commissioner of CMP Port Division, informed The Daily Star.

“Police are on the spot and investigating the incident,” she said.

A fire was also reported at another school in Gazipur city that was being utilised as a voting booth.

Authorities believe both instances are the result of arson.

According to Abdullah-al-Arefin, deputy assistant director of Gazipur Fire Service, arsonists allegedly set fire to a closet in the office room of East Chandana Government Primary School, burning books and documents within.

The fire was eventually quenched by firefighters from Joydebpur and Gazipur Chowrasta.

Meanwhile, arson assaults on five other polling places and ten election camps occurred in six districts between Thursday and Friday.

There were no casualties or injuries recorded at the time of the accidents.

According to an official, police are investigating the event in order to identify the perpetrators.

 

 

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