Bangladesh troops to curb pre-election violence
Move comes as political tension simmers
Troops have been seen in force throughout the country since Friday December 20
Bangladesh authorities said Friday thousands of troops will be deployed next week to contain violence ahead of controversial general elections slated for January 5.
Heavily armed troops have already fanned out in major trouble spots across the country but "official deployment" will start December 26, the Election Commission said.
"The army troops will be deployed between December 26 and January 9 across the country," Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told reporters.
He did not say how many troops will be deployed but local media put the number at around 50,000.
The move comes amid mounting tension in the country with the opposition and a key ruling party ally boycotting the parliamentary polls. The government insists the vote will go ahead as planned.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies have been staging protests since late October to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down so that a neutral caretaker government can oversee the election.
Three rounds of United Nations-brokered last-minute talks between the government and opposition have failed to resolve the dispute, plunging the nation into its worst crisis in decades.
Violence over the planned elections has left more than 100 people dead since November. A series of strikes and nationwide transport blockades have crippled the economy, affecting millions of poor farmers and the urban middle class.
The Election Commission said the troops were being deployed in addition to security forces that include paramilitary border guards, who this week launched a crackdown on protesters after weeks of violence. AFP
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