Anti-government strike in Bangladesh

Riot police used batons Wednesday to beat back hundreds of stone-throwing protesters in Bangladesh 's capital during an opposition-sponsored general strike. At least 20 people were injured, witnesses said. The clashes occurred in central Dhaka as about 500 opposition activists many of them throwing stones at police tried to overrun barbed-wire barricades and parade through the streets, witnesses said.

About a dozen protesters were detained during the clashes, opposition spokesman Sheikh Selim told The Associated Press. Police officials declined to comment. Shops and schools across Bangladesh shut their doors to avoid trouble during the strike, which was called to protest price hikes and to urge the government to resign.

The nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike also disrupted public transportation in Dhaka and more than 60 other cities and towns, police and news reports said. The shutdown was sponsored by the main opposition Awami League and 13 small allied parties. Such strikes get little public support, but most schools and shops close anyway, fearing intimidation and violence by strike supporters.

The opposition has launched a campaign of street protests and general strikes to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's four-party coalition government, accusing it of corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism. The opposition has asked the government to roll back the prices of fuel, which were recently hiked by up to 15 percent.

The government has vowed to remain in power until its five-year term ends in October this year. Stores and schools closed in Dhaka , the capital city of 10 million people. Streets were devoid of cars and buses, and most commuters depended on tricycle rickshaws that were allowed by the strikers to operate. Dozens of opposition activists paraded through central Dhaka shouting "down with the corrupt government."

Authorities deployed about 8,000 security forces in the capital to prevent any violence. General strikes are a common opposition tactic aimed at embarrassing the government, reports the AP.

N.U.