DHAKA, Jan. 25, Reuter: Opposition parties on Monday accused police of shooting dead 12 antigovernment activists and wounding at least 300 others while they were preparing to hold a rally at the weekend.

They said the activists were Killed in Chittagong on Sunday when riot police opened fire on hundreds of people. Some prominent opposition leaders were among the wounded.

The Home Ministry said trouble Started because the group tried to defy the law and hold public rally. It said five were killed and at least 100, including some police, were injured.

Newspapers in Dhaka and Chittagong gave various figures of casualties between seven and 12 and most blamed the incident on police.

“Police had to open fire because the opposition activists attacked the security forces with hand grenades and firearms”, the Ministry said in a statement on Sunday night.

‘The main opposition parties denounced President Hossain Mohammad Ershad for leaving the country on Monday to attend a meeting of the governing council of the United Nations International fund for agriculture development.

“He goes to Rome when the country burns”, the parties said in a statement.

The rally was to have been addressed by Awami League chief, Sheikh Hasina, one of the main opposition leaders who have been campaigning for Ershad’s resignation.

Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have called for a boycott of Parliamentary elections set for March 3 unless Ershad resigns and hands over power to a caretaker government.

Hasina denounced the shooting as “new refinement of atrocities”.

Khaleda said it was “a carnage perpetrated in a wild attempt to keep an illegal government in power”.

The opposition has called an eight-hour protest stoppage in Chittagong for Monday and a national strike for Tuesday.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 29, 1988