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SLUG: 2-322144 Bangladesh/Interpol (L)
HEADLINE: Bangladesh Government, Interpol Probe Attacks on Opposition
INTRO: Agents of the international police organization, Interpol, are to help police in Bangladesh investigate a grenade attack that killed a top opposition official last week. Meanwhile, a general strike called by the opposition to protest the attack is in its third day. Anjana Pasricha reports from our South Asia bureau in New Delhi.
TEXT: Bangladeshi authorities on Monday began questioning witnesses to last week's attack, which killed former Finance Minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria and four other members of the opposition Awami League. Officials say two Interpol agents are helping with the investigation.
Meanwhile, opposition activists held anti-government demonstrations, and riot police stood guard in Dhaka on the third day of a general strike called by the Awami League to protest the attack.
Businesses, stock exchanges and public transport have been disrupted since the strike began on Saturday. Police, wielding canes and firing tear gas, have clashed with protesters, leaving dozens of people injured.
The Bangladeshi authorities asked for assistance from Interpol, the United States and Britain after Western countries expressed concern over the government's failure to identify and detain those responsible for a string of bomb and grenade blasts that have rocked the country in recent months. Some of the attacks have targeted the political opposition.
Washington is considering the request, but the U.S. State Department says the Bangladeshi authorities should give foreign investigators full access to evidence and witnesses.
Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil says his party welcomes the assistance of foreign investigators. But he says they must be allowed to conduct an independent inquiry.
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"If these organizations come to Bangladesh to assist the government inquiry, there will not be any result. The terms and condition of inquiry should be set first, and they should be given a free hand."
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The Awami League accuses the government of involvement in the blasts. The government strongly denies the allegations.
International investigators assisted a probe into an attack last August on an opposition rally in Dhaka. Awami League leader and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the meeting, and narrowly escaped injury. No culprits have been identified to date.
The impoverished South Asian nation has a history of political violence. (SIGNED)
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