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Bangladesh clashes continue as protests intensify

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An injured student is taken to hospital during clashes on Saturday [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Al Jazeera

Violent clashes continued in Bangladesh as authorities fired tear gas and shut down mobile internet connections after a week of student protests that brought tens of thousands to the streets.

By 1pm (07:00 GMT) on Sunday, thousands of students from various schools and colleges started controlling traffic in the capital, Dhaka, for the eighth consecutive day. Bangladeshi police fired tear gas at students occupying an intersection in central Dhaka.

[post_ads]"It was a peaceful rally but suddenly police fired tear gas shells aimed at us [that] left several injured," Mohammad Atikur Rahman, one of the protesters, told dpa news agency.

A number of journalists were also beaten and had their cameras taken away, reportedly by ruling Awami League party members.

Telecommunications companies were ordered to suspend 3G and 4G services for a period of 24 hours on late Saturday, the English-language Dhaka Tribune reported, hours after dozens of demonstrators were injured during street battles with police on Saturday.

Jahirul Haq, chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, told AFP news agency regulators received an order from the government, but didn't give further details.

Days of protests

[post_ads]The restrictions were rolled out after thousands of students took to the streets in recent days to protest poor road safety following the killing of teenagers Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib by a speeding bus a week ago.

Demonstrators stopped motorists in Dhaka and in other parts of the country to check licenses and registrations, causing significant traffic disruptions.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on students to return home after police reportedly fired tear gas at a crowd gathered in front of the Awami League's office in Dhaka's Jigatala neighbourhood.

"I request all guardians and parents to keep their children at home. Whatever they have done is enough," said Hasina. "Our police force has started a week-long drive to bring discipline on the roads."

A day earlier, witnesses reported seeing police fire rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators gathered in Jigatala. Police denied the allegations.

The Awami League also refuted accusations that its members attacked protesters.
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'Political dimension'

Shahidul Alam, a social activist, told Al Jazeera from Dhaka the protests were driven by "larger" factors than road safety alone.

He highlighted "the looting of the banks, the gaggling of the media, the extrajudicial killings, disappearings, bribery and corruption". 

"Today the police specifically asked for help from armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads," said Alam.

"The government has miscalculated. It thought that fear and repression would be enough but you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner."

More than 4,200 people were killed in road accidents throughout Bangladesh last year, a 25 percent increase from 2016, according to private research group the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways.

Al Jazeera's Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from Dhaka, said what started as a social movement against traffic safety was now "taking more and more of a political dimension".

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World - U.S. Daily News: Bangladesh clashes continue as protests intensify
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