At least seven passengers, including two women, were charred to death on Tuesday when suspected opposition activists hurled petrol bombs on a packed bus in eastern Bangladesh, the worst attack during the current spate of political unrest that has claimed 54 lives in the country.
Police said suspected activists of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) hurled petrol bombs on the bus at around 3:30 AM as it was heading towards the capital from south-eastern sea resort town of Cox’s Bazar.
“The bus came under attack at Chouddogram area (on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway) and we sent the seriously injured passengers to the DMCH (Dhaka Medical College Hospital) burnunit and others to (nearby) Comilla Medial College Hospital,” an official of highway police told .
Seven people, including two women, were killed and at least 16 others injured in the attack, police said.
Doctors at the facility here said the toll could rise as burn injuries of some of the wounded passengers appeared beyond treatment while three of them sustained “70 per cent burns”.
In two near simultaneous assaults, suspected opposition activists uprooted railway tracks causing derailment of a train near south-eastern port city of Chittagong and threw petrol bombs on another train in the outskirts of the capital, leaving 14 passengers injured in the two incidents.
This was the second such attack on trains in 24 hours after saboteurs uprooted tracks derailing a train, injuring five people and delinking Chittagong with rest of the country for hours in railway routes.
The last night’s incident was the seventh attempt of sabotage on railway which was forced to operate trains at low speeds to evade attacks causing delays.
In the last 24 hours, at least 15 vehicles came under arson attacks, five of those in the capital injuring several as the BNP-enforced 72-hour strike is underway.
In another incident, two motor-bikers were killed after being hit by a truck when they tried to set it on fire in western Monirampur of Jessore district.
BNP visibly intensified its violent campaign after a Dhaka court on Monday ordered police investigations against Zia on a complaint accusing her of masterminding deaths of at least 42 people by spearheading the unrest. This was the fourth such case against Zia within a week.
Police announced a bounty of approximately USD 6,500 for specific inputs about those who torched particularly the bus.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has warned Zia, saying she would have to “suffer a lot” for spearheading the violent campaign to topple her government at the cost of innocent lives.