January 31, 2015 / 1:22 PM / 3 years ago

Bangladesh opposition says leader's Internet, electricity cut

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladeshi opposition activists accused the government of cutting the power, Internet and cable connections at their leader’s office on Saturday to pressure her into calling off a strike after days of violent anti-government protests.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia waves to activists as she arrives for a rally in Dhaka January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

The disconnections were reported soon after the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Khaleda, called another 72-hour strike from Sunday morning along with its ongoing blockades of roads, railways and water routes.

Senior ruling party member Hassan Mahmood earlier on Saturday warned that communications at Khaleda’s office would be cut if she did not call off protests before school exams on Monday. The electricity supply has since been restored.

“We have been asked to fix the line and we have restored the connection,” an employee of the Dhaka Electric Supply Company said.

At least two crude bombs exploded on Saturday evening near Khaleda’s office in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone without causing any injuries, police and witnesses said.

An autorickshaw passenger died in the northern district of Sirajganj after opposition activists hurled fire bombs at the vehicle.

At least 41 people have died and hundreds been wounded in protests that surged on Jan. 5, the first anniversary of national elections that the BNP boycotted, denouncing them as rigged.

Khaleda is at loggerheads with Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina and has called for her government to step down for a new vote under a caretaker administration.

Hasina has refused, instead tightening her grip by arresting key opposition leaders and clamping down on critical media.

“There has been no electricity ... they have also cut Internet and cable television services to the office,” Khaleda’s Press Secretary Maruf Kamal Khan told reporters on Saturday.

The BNP has warned the government of dire consequences if it does not withdraw two arson charges against Khaleda and stop what it calls the oppression of its leaders and activists.

Analysts say the renewed political turmoil could threaten the country’s $24-billion garment export industry, already under pressure after a string of fatal accidents.

Hasina and Khaleda, both related to former national leaders, have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades in a fierce rivalry marked by bouts of political violence.

The United States, the European Union and Britain have voiced concern over the violence and urged all political parties to engage in dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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