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Bangladesh opposition chief held after anti-PM protests

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh’s main opposition leader was detained for questioning yesterday, as clashes raged for a second day between police and protesters demonstrating against the prime minister ahead of upcoming elections.

Police also made a series of raids on the homes of senior Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders, party spokesman Zahir Uddin Swapan said, adding that nearly 3,000 party activists and supporters had been detained in the past week.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Habibur Rahman said BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had been “detained for interrogation”.

Rahman told AFP that Alamgir would be questioned over Saturday’s violence in which a police officer and a protester were killed, and at least 26 police ambulances were torched or damaged.

Alamgir, 75, the BNP’s secretary-general, has led the party since BNP chairwoman and two-time former premier Khaleda Zia was arrested and jailed, and her son went into exile in Britain.

The resurgent opposition has been mounting protests for months, despite their ailing leader Zia being effectively under house arrest after a conviction on corruption charges.

Saturday’s protests by BNP and influential party Jamaat-e-Islami, were among the biggest this year, and marked a new phase in their campaigning with a general election due before the end of January.

People gather outside a charred bus torched by activists during a rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh. PHOTO: AFP