Bangladesh crackdown aimed at breaking strike

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President Hussain Muhammad Ershad yesterday ordered a fresh crackdown on Bangladesh's opposition movement, whose national strike continued to cripple the country. Police were told to search houses to ferret out bomb-makers and arrest political activists responsible for the protests of the past two weeks. The strike virtually paralysed Bangladesh on Tuesday, with almost all businesses and offices closed and shuttered.

Information Minister Anwar Zahid said yesterday that Bangladesh had suffered nearly $50 million daily in production and export losses since the opposition protests began on Nov. 10. Jute exports were down, he said, and the flourishing garment industry had virtually collapsed due to continuous strikes.

``The economy is about to collapse. It will go beyond repair if it continues the way it is doing,'' Mr. Zahid said.

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Twenty-one political parties united last month to call for stoppages to force out President Ershad, a former Army general who seized power in a 1982 military coup and restored civil rule last year. Opposition parties accuse him of rigging the October 1986 presidential vote and other polls, and of corruption. Ershad has vowed to fight ``to the last drop of my blood'' against attempts to oust him.

Police say hundreds of activists have been injured in clashes between government supporters and opponents during the protests. More than 1,500 opposition leaders and workers have been arrested. Ten people, including two policemen, have been killed in bomb attacks.

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