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Asia

Strike paralyses Bangladesh

media Investors burn papers as they block a road in front of the Dhaka stock … Reuters/Andrew Biraj

Bangladesh's opposition has called a nationwide strike for Monday to protest against increasing food prices and plans to build a new airport. Minor clashes have broken out and at least 8,500 police have been deployed in the capital Dhaka.

The strike, called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has closed all shops, businesses, schools and major roads in and around Dhaka and in several other cities.

The BNP's head office has been cordoned off by riot police armed with a water cannon.Police fired tear gas at protesters in northwestern Bangladesh on Monday as minor clashes broke out across the country.

In Rajshahi town, 200 kilometres northwest of Dhaka, hundreds of demonstrators threw rocks at police and vandalised vehicles. Police responded with tear gas and baton charges. At least 15 people were arrested.

Five people, including a BNP official were arrested on Sunday night over violence in Dhaka. At least eight buses were set on fire overnight.

The port in Chittagong, which handles 90 per cent of Bangladesh's 40-billion-dollar foreign trading, has been cut off by the strike, halting operations.

The government had planned to construct an airport on a flood plain in Srinigar, south of Dhaka. Violent protests by at least 20,000 villagers last month led Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to say it would now be constructed on a different site.

Food inflation is in double digits after two bad rice harvests.

Shares on the Dhaka Stock Exchange dropped nearly six per cent on Sunday, triggering protests by more than 1,000 investors in the capital.

The market also lost 2.51 percent on Thursday, the previous day of trading. The Dgen has shed nearly 30 per cent from a historic high of 8,918.51 on 5 December. It has grown by 400 per cent since the start of 2007 and rose more than 80 per cent last year.

Investors on Sunday blocked roads leading to the main business district, Motijheel, halting traffic for more than two hours.

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