9 buses torched in sudden attacks
At least nine buses were torched in different parts of the capital within the span of a few hours yesterday which police suspect was part of a plot to carry out subversive activities.
No casualty was reported.
Law enforcers arrested a suspect with a crude bomb around noon from the capital's Uttara where by-election to Dhaka-18 constituency was being held. Nine more people were picked up from Nayapaltan area.
"Torching of the buses was part of a plot to destabilise law and order through subversive activities," Md Walid Hossain, deputy commissioner of the Media and Public Relations Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told The Daily Star.
Nine buses were set on fire at different places, he mentioned.
The vehicles were torched between 12:30pm and 4:30pm, according to the Fire Service and Civil Defence and witnesses.
Following the arson incidents, police cordoned off the BNP central office at Nayapaltan in the evening.
BNP spokesperson Imran Saleh Prince said law enforcers picked up seven BNP leaders and activists while the party men were trying to enter the office.
DMP Deputy Commissioner Walid said police arrested a man named Sohel with a crude bomb from Uttara around noon while he was trying to carry out "subversive activities".
The arrestee, who lives in Tongi College Road area, was a hired hand, he added.
Scrutinising CCTV footages and talking to witnesses, police identified several attackers, said the official.
While the buses were set on fire, polling was going on in Dhaka-18 constituency where BNP candidate SM Jahangir Hossain claimed his agents were forced out of several centres by ruling party men and law enforcers.
The arson incidents took place outside the polling areas. The first one happened in front of Modhumita Cinema at Motijheel at about 12:30pm, followed by torching of a bus on Bangabandhu Avenue and another in front of Aziz Super Market at Shahbagh around 1:30pm; one at Shahjahanpur and one near the northern gate of the secretariat around 2:00pm; one in Bongshal area at about 2:30pm; one in front of Pubali Petrol Pump in Motijheel area at about 3:00pm; and another on Progati Sarani around 4:30pm.
Abu Bakar Siddique, officer-in-charge of Paltan Police Station, said a government minibus was set on fire around 12:30pm on the north side of the BNP central office.
He said they picked up nine people from Nayapaltan area on suspicion of involvement in subversive activities.
Many commuters said they had to suffer in long tailbacks following the arson incidents that slowed down vehicular movement in different parts of the city.
Talking to this newspaper, a street vendor who sells fruits near the secretariat said, "Suddenly, I saw fire in the rear of a Shahbagh-bound bus at the northern gate of the secretariat around 2:00pm. The passengers got down from the vehicle hurriedly."
He further said that initially, everyone thought the engine caught fire due to technical problems.
Sajib Kazi, another street vendor on Bangabandhu Avenue, said he saw smoke coming out from the rear of a bus that got stuck in traffic jam.
"Within a few seconds, fire engulfed the whole bus. All the passengers managed to get down," he added.
Russel Shikder, duty officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, said that on information, their units rushed to the spots to douse fire. No causality was reported in the incidents.
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, believe that those were arson attacks as the buses were torched within a few hours.
He suspected that criminals in the guise of passengers boarded the buses and later set those on fire.
Enayet Ullah demanded compensation for the owners of the torched buses and punishment to all those responsible for the incidents.
Law enforcers were seen patrolling various key points in the capital since yesterday afternoon.