08/21/2007, 00.00
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Police and students clash in Dhaka, 150 hurt

Protesters want military off Dhaka University campus. Demonstrations began yesterday and spread today to Chittagong and Kushtia. Unprovoked beating of a few students by soldiers sparked the latest protest. Army chief Moeen U Ahmed burnt in effigy.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In the second day of protest strike students and riot police clash in the capital of Bangladesh. At Dhaka University students threw stones and set fires across the campus to protest the military’s presence. Police responded by using batons and tear gas; at least 150 students and four policemen were hurt. Clashes also occurred in Chittagong and Kushtia, near the capital.

Students marched shouting slogans against the caretaker government, which is backed the armed forces. They burnt an effigy of the army chief, Moeen U Ahmed. Female students also took to the streets to protest police brutality.

The current trouble began yesterday when some soldiers beat three students and insulted a professor for no apparent reason during a soccer match in the university’s gym where an army unit is garrisoned.

It quickly turned into a protest by thousands of students who began calling for the army to go and apologise.

Today it degenerated into a non-stop strike as thousands of students refused to show up for class.

The students are backed by the university’s professor association which has set a deadline for noon tomorrow for full troop withdrawal from the campus.

Since January 12 Bangladesh has been run by a military-backed transitional government that has imposed emergency laws banning gatherings and protests.

Democratic elections are expected to take place within a year.

The army is reported to be keeping a low profile in the clashes, leaving the job of confronting the students to the police. But the government has said that action will be taken against troublemakers.

Still experts point out that in the past two military-backed governments under Ziaur Rahman and Muhammad Ershad were forced out of power as a result of popular protests sparked by student unrest.

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