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Clashes in Dhaka, Nearby Town; Five More Opposition Leaders Free

December 1, 1987

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Bombings and clashes with police persisted Tuesday despite a state of emergency declared four days earlier by President Hussain Muhammad Ershad to stem opposition protests.

Home Minister Abdul Matin told a news conference one person was killed and several people, including at least seven policemen, were injured.

He said 181 people were arrested nationwide Tuesday for violating emergency regulations or a curfew that went into effect with the emergency midnight Friday. Matin’s ministry is responsible for internal security.

The minister said five more opposition leaders were released from detention as a goodwill gesture prior to talks opening with foes of the government.

Four politicians were freed Monday.

″Now it is their turn to respond,″ Matin said.

However, Obaidur Rahman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told reportrers shortly after his release that negotiations were out of the question.

″We are demanding the resignation of this government and not talks with them,″ Rahman said.

He said anti-government groups would hold rallies and protests starting Wednesday to build public support for ousting Ershad. Rahman said the agitation would include a general strike throughout Bangladesh next Monday.

Ershad imposed emergency rule after nearly three weeks of protests against his government. Under the emergency, the government can detain people without trial for violating a ban on rallies, protests and demonstrations . News reporting of opposition activities is banned.

Violators face jail terms of up to three years.

The worst outbreak Tuesday came in the northeastern town of Narsingdi, 30 miles from Dhaka.

Matin said from 400 to 500 people gathered at a bus station and tried to hold a procession, violating emergency rules He said police fired in self- defense after the crowd threw stones and home-made bombs at police.

Matin said one protester was killed and several were wounded. He had no figures on civilian wounded but said at least seven police officers were hurt.

Official figures now put the death toll at three since the emergency was declared. Opposition sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the toll is at least nine.

By government count, nine people were killed in the past three weeks. Unofficial sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, say 20 died.

Dhaka, the capital, was hit by bomb explosions Tuesday.

Matin said two policemen suffered leg injuries in explosion a quarter of a mile from the Secretariat.

The Tuesday arrests followed 72 arrests Monday night, Matin said. Since anti-government protests began on Nov. 10, the arrests totaled 5,013, he said.

The curfew was lifted during daylight hours Tuesday. Most government and commercial offices were open, and there was traffic on the streets.

Ershad, a former army general, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1982. Last year he resigned from the army and was elected president. Opposition leaders challenged the legality of that election.

Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, has had seven presidents in its 16 years as a nation. None took office through an election, but some - like Ershad - were elected president after gaining power through coups or assassinations.

Update hourly