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Blasts, arson mark start of strike in Bangladesh

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November 3, 2013 11:25 PM EST | AP


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Opposition activists exploded homemade bombs and set fire to at least 10 vehicles in Bangladesh's capital to enforce a general strike to demand that the government quit so upcoming elections can be held under a caretaker government.

Officials said Monday that security has been heightened across Dhaka amid escalating tensions in the run-up to the election, which is due by early next year. No injuries were reported.

The 60-hour strike that began on Monday morning came after at least 16 people died last week in a similar strike.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants to hold the elections under an all-party caretaker government, but the opposition says they want a government with people from outside political parties.

Schools and shops were also closed Monday while traffic was thin in the usually clogged streets in Dhaka. TV stations reported explosions of homemade bombs other parts of the country, although there were few details.

Bangladesh has been a parliamentary democracy since 1991, but a smooth transfer of power remains a major challenge.

A military-backed caretaker government ruled the country for two years after the five-year term of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, now the opposition leader, expired in 2006 amid street violence.

Hasina came to power through elections in 2008, and three years later her administration scrapped a 15-year-old system under which a caretaker government system oversaw elections, in line with a ruling by the Supreme Court that said the system was unconstitutional.

The opposition says that raises concerns about election rigging, an allegation the government denies.