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Strike Cripples Bangladesh for Second Day - 2004-08-25

Bangladesh came to a halt for the second day in a row as the main opposition party enforced a two-day general strike. Bangladesh has been gripped with political unrest since an attack on an opposition rally killed 20 people.

Thousands of paramilitary troops and policemen patrolled the capital, Dhaka and other major cities as a nationwide strike called by the opposition Awami League crippled normal activity across the nation for a second day.

Shops have been shuttered, schools have shut down and activists have disrupted rail traffic. Scores of protesters have been injured in scattered clashes between demonstrators and police since the strike began on Tuesday.

The Awami League called off the protest by the afternoon to allow people to attend the funeral procession of a senior leader, Ivy Rahman. She died from wounds suffered in Saturday's grenade attack on a party rally.

The Awami League says the attack targeted former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who was addressing the meeting.

The party says it has received a fresh threat on Sheikh Hasina's life from a little-known Islamic group known as the Brave Holy Warriors, which claimed responsibility for the attack in a message to a local newspaper.

Ataus Samad, editor of the weekly newsmagazine Ekhon says the political protests are unlikely to end soon.

"The anger against the ruling party by the main opposition party is very open, while government is trying not to get involved in a large-scale clash with the opposition," he said.

The government has denied Awami League accusations that it has links to the fundamentalist groups that the opposition says were behind the attack.

Since the attack, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has tried to meet Sheikh Hasina, but the opposition has spurned the efforts.

So far, investigators have not indicated who may have been responsible for the attack.

There have been calls for the government to improve law and order. A series of bomb attacks in the past year have hit a variety of targets, movie theaters, religious places and opposition meetings.