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Riots, bombs in Bangladesh opposition-led strike

DHAKA: Explosions of homemade bombs were reported across the Bangladeshi capital yesterday as opposition activists enforcing a daylong general strike rioted and clashed with police.
Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of people who were smashing vehicles. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured in the violence described by witnesses and television reports in parts of the capital, Dhaka, A coalition of 18 opposition parties was enforcing the strike to demand that a caretaker government be restored before the next national elections due in 2014, while a key coalition partner wants their leaders facing charges of crimes against humanity to be freed from jail.
Schools and businesses remained closed in Dhaka and other major cities and towns Tuesday and transportation was largely disrupted across Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy that has a history of fierce political violence.
Amid the violence, the United States yesterday urged the two main political parties to resolve their disputes through dialogue.
Independent television reported the detention of at least six opposition activists from the Dhaka University area in the capital.
Police said activists torched at least 21 vehicles in Dhaka late Monday after police arrested a senior leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.
Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party and the main partner of Zia’s party, has been demanding the release of nine of its leaders facing charges of crimes against humanity dating back to the 1971 independence war against Pakistan. Two other leaders from Zia’s party face similar charges and are now jailed.
Zia has criticized the trial, calling it a farce.