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Seven Killed in Petrol Bomb Attack in Bangladesh as Police Vow to Crush Political Unrest

The latest in a string of such incidents, the assault brings to more than 50 the death toll from a month of opposition protests, strikes and blockades.

by Syed Tashfin Chowdhury
Feb 3 2015, 6:51pm

Image via AP

At least seven people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in a petrol bomb attack on a bus in Bangladesh, the latest in a wave of such assaults that has accompanied a month of political unrest in the country.

The bus was making an overnight trip from the southern port town of Cox's Bazar to the capital, Dhaka, when it came under attack in the early hours of the morning from individuals hurling petrol bombs, according to local firefighters.

Most of the passengers were asleep at the time, authorities said.

"We heard about the incident around 3:12am and immediately four units rushed to douse the fire and save those inside the bus," Station Officer Nazir Ahmed of the Chouddogram Fire Department told VICE News.

He said that the doors of the bus were closed, trapping the sleeping passengers inside. "Seven people, including five men and two women, died on the spot."

"Those who were awake managed to jump out of the windows. We managed to rescue 16 passengers and admitted them to the Chouddogram Chauddagram Health Complex and later transferred them to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH)," said Ahmed.

He said it was thought that the bus had around 35 passengers although it was a 40-seater vehicle.

Dr Samanta Lal Sen, project director of the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit at DMCH, told VICE News that three of those injured were in critical condition, while the rest were being treated for minor burns. 

At least 50 people have now been killed since the opposition called a program of blockades and strikes on January 6.

The protests were declared by the opposition following the detention of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia and other senior opposition figures, who were planning a large rally on January 5, to demand fresh elections after last year's disputed vote.

Arson attacks on the highway have become a common phenomena, said Ahmed. 

'Shoot Arsonists on Sight': Political Crisis in Bangladesh Leads to Violence and 7,500 Arrests. Read more here.

At least three buses were burnt in Dhaka on Tuesday, as a 72-hour nationwide strike that was supposed to end on Tuesday night was extended by the opposition till 6pm on Thursday.

Sen said that medical facilities equipped to deal with burns were overstretched. "The only specialized burn unit at DMCH is presently treating 540 burn victims, when it has a capacity to treat only 300 such patients."

Dhaka Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia told on Tuesday that life in Bangladesh would be brought back to normal within another week. 

"Every police station in the capital has lists of people who are funding and ordering violence. Raids are on to detain them. The situation will be completely normal within seven days," Mia said.

Authorities have been accused of a heavy-handed response, with eleven people killed while in police custody since the unrest began.

But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said security forces must do whatever it takes to restore order in Bangladesh and accused the opposition of engaging in terrorist actions.

Zia and the BNP have denied any responsibility for the arson attacks. 

Bangladesh Police Accused of Extrajudicial Killings in Protest Crackdown. Read more here.