Suspected arson on Bangladesh train kills 4 ahead of Sunday election

DHAKA: At least four people were killed and many injured after suspected arsonists set on fire a passenger train that was coming from the port town of Benapole, bordering India’s West Bengal, to the capital city of Dhaka on Friday, two days ahead of Bangladesh’s general elections that have been boycotted by the main opposition BNP, officials said.
Four carriages of the Benapole Express was set on fire at around 9 pm as it nearly reached its destination of Kamalapur railway station.”So far we have found four bodies . . . search is still under way,” Shahjahan Shikdar, the spokesman of fire service and civil defence, said. Railway officials said that most of the train’s nearly 292 passengers were returning home from India.
Mahid Uddin, an additional police commissioner with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the fire was “clearly an act of sabotage” aimed at scaring people ahead of the election. He did not name any political party or groups as suspects, but said police would seek those responsible.
While the railway officials could not immediately confirm how many people were wounded, private TV channels said that people in the neighbourhood first reached the scene and sent several fire-wounded people to Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s burn unit and some other facilities.
Campaigning for the elections officially came to an end Friday morning. The Election Commission announced polling would be held in 299 constituencies out of 300 across the country on Sunday. More than 100 foreign observers, including three from India, have reached Dhaka to monitor the general election.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former PM Khalida Zia, is boycotting the general election as it is demanding an interim non-party neutral government to hold the election. The demand was rejected by the government headed by PM Sheikh Hasina, who is heading the ruling Awami League.
At least three people have been killed in violence attributed to political clashes since the campaign officially began Dec 18. Bangladesh has a history of violence during polls and this year’s election is drawing global attention. Critics have accused Hasina of systemically suffocating the opposition by implementing repressive security measures. Zia’s party claimed that over 20,000 opposition supporters have been arrested. The government said those figures were inflated and denied arrests were made due to political leanings, but rather for arson and vandalism.
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