Bangladesh police arrest opposition members over train fire

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Police on Saturday (Jan 6) arrested seven opposition party members blamed for an alleged pre-election arson attack on a packed commuter train that killed four people and injured another eight.

Friday night’s blaze engulfed the intercity Benapole Express in central Dhaka, with hundreds scrambling to pull passengers from burning carriages.

It was the latest in a series of fires to hit railway services since late last year, blamed by police on “deadly acts of sabotage” by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) ahead of Sunday’s national election.

Police said Nabiullah Nabi, a senior BNP official in Dhaka, and six other party activists were arrested in the capital early Saturday.

“Nabi funded and masterminded the attack,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Faruk Hossain told AFP by phone.

The BNP and dozens of other opposition parties are boycotting Sunday’s vote, which they say is a “sham” designed to entrench the rule of longtime Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The party has vehemently rejected allegations of responsibility for the fires and demanded an international probe into the incidents.

“These are pre-planned acts of sabotage by government functionaries aimed at discrediting the non-violent movement of the BNP,” party spokesman A K M Wahiduzzaman told AFP.

“Tarique Rahman, our party chief, had expressed his fear that government was hatching these conspiracy to divert people’s attention away from the sham election.”

Police had earlier lowered the fire’s death toll from five to four.

Samanta Lal Sen, a senior official of the Dhaka hospital treating victims of the blaze, said eight people had been critically injured.

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