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Bangladesh army offers drinking water to protesters

By Staff
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DHAKA, May 6 (Reuters) Troops in battle gear handed bucketfuls of drinking water today to quench the thirst of thousands of Bangladeshis staging a noisy protest over a shortage of electricity and water.

Witnesses said troops with water tankers moved into the crowded Demra area on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka where angry protesters barricaded a highway yesterday, clashed with police and damaged dozens of vehicles.

More than 100 people were injured, including 10 policemen, in the clashes after law enforcers tried to disperse the protesters using batons and teargas.

They were protesting against little or no clean water supplies in the area, along with months of daily power failures hurting businesses and students preparing for examinations, local residents said.

Hundreds of protesters took to the highway again early today but soon dispersed as the army began supplying water, and also assured residents they would try to find a solution to their problems.

''The situation has largely calmed down and is fast returning to normal,'' an army officer at the scene said.

Bangladesh, where political strife is common, has seen a wave of unprecedented countrywide protests over the short supply and high prices of utilities including water, electricity and diesel to run irrigation pumps.

At least 20 people, mostly farmers, were shot dead by police in the country's northwest in recent months while demonstrating against the shortages and alleged inaction by authorities to improve supplies.

Reuters DKS GC1214

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