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    Bangladesh 'Crime' Sweep Nets More than 10,000 People

    More than 10,000 people have been arrested in Bangladesh, the past week, as part of an ongoing crackdown by the government. Political activists are among those being jailed in what officials call a sweeping anti-crime campaign. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from our South Asia Bureau in New Delhi.

    Bangladeshi officials confirmed Wednesday that the number of people arrested in the latest crackdown has surpassed 10,000. Police say the campaign, which began May 28, will last a month. They say it is primarily targeted at smugglers, those with illegal weapons and others labeled as "miscreants."

    Authorities deny political activists are being targeted.

    The country's two major political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party, say their members are among those taken into custody.

    Dhaka University Professor Ataur Rahman, who is president of the Bangladesh Political Science Association, says the crackdown follows the two major parties' refusal to attend talks with the military-backed interim government.

    "Since the political parties gave a warning that [they] will go for a movement against the government, as a consequence the government has taken this drive to really clear out hardcore political activists and some criminals, along with them, so that untoward happenings do not come in wake of this call by the political parties," said Rahman.

    Authorities in Dhaka say the arrests will improve security ahead of scheduled December national elections.

    However, analysts say elections will not be considered credible if boycotted by the Awami League and the BNP.

    At present, the parties officials say they will not discuss with the caretaker government their participation in the election unless their leaders are freed. Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia - both former prime ministers -- are in jail and facing trial on corruption charges.

    Feuding between the two women, led to violent street demonstrations and political chaos in 2006. A caretaker government was then appointed by the president and backed by the army. For the last 17 months Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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