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Bangladesh holds hundreds to foil Dhaka siege plan

Written by: Staff
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DHAKA, June 6 (Reuters) Bangladesh police today said they had detained about 1,300 people across the country, which opposition parties linked to attempts to foil its plans to lay a siege to the capital to demand electoral reforms.

The main opposition Awami League and other smaller parties plan to block all entry points to Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, on Sunday and have asked party workers from across the country to march to the outskirts of city the day before.

A police statement said that 1,311 ''criminals and other accused'' were held across the country in the past 24 hours.

''The crackdown on opposition activists is aimed at foiling the planned siege ... Police have also raided homes of many leaders and workers of the opposition,'' Tofayel Ahmed, a former minister and a senior leader of Awami League, told Reuters.

Police rejected the charges.

''It's a routine work. Now more people are being held due to an increase in criminal activities in the country,'' a senior police officer said.

The opposition has been demanding the resignation of the chief election commissioner ahead of next year's polls, accusing him of a pro-government bias, and changes in the system of a caretaker administration.

The opposition alliance has called for the siege to pressure on the government to accept the demands. It warned of further action if police tried to break the siege on Sunday, a working day in the mainly Muslim Bangladesh.

''We will go for a harsher campaign if government used its police against us,'' said Hasanul Haque Inu, another leader of the opposition alliance.

The opposition wants the elections to be organised by a caretaker administration led by a leader acceptable to all political groups, and the armed forces be put under the caretaker chief during the polls.

Currently, the country's figurehead president -- picked by the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party -- is constitutionally authorised to appoint the caretaker administration and head the armed forces until such time a new elected government takes power.

REUTERS DKS ND1516

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