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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Police battle strikers in Bangladesh capital

DHAKA, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Police chased and clubbed opposition activists marching through Bangladesh's capital on Thursday during a nationwide strike calling for electoral reforms ahead of an election next year, witnesses said.

The protesters marched as heavy rain fell, chanting demands for the government to carry out the reforms or face more protests.

Police used batons to disperse stone-throwing protesters. About 20 activists were injured but none seriously, a Reuters cameraman at the scene said.

Schools, shops and most offices were closed for the strike, the latest in a bid by a 14-party alliance to force Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to accept their demands.

The alliance led by Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League wants the chief election commissioner and his deputies immediately removed, accusing them of pro-government bias.

They also want a say in choosing the head of a caretaker administration to supervise the January 2007 polls. Khaleda will hand over power to the head of the caretaker administration by the end of October after five years in power.

Khaleda has rejected the demands and accused the opposition of trying to disrupt democracy.
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