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19 burnt as bus set afire in Bangladesh

Publication Date : 29-11-2013


A teenage boy died and at least 18 other people were burned after arsonists set fire to a passenger bus near Shishu Park in the capital yesterday, the third day of the opposition blockade.

The dead is Nahid Mondol, 18, of Shibchar in Madaripur.

The other injured include a female journalist and her mother, a female High Court lawyer, a female banker, a policeman and a Dhaka College student.

All the victims were taken to the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where Nahid died around 11:30pm. Doctors said most of victims suffered 20 to 60 per cent burns while at least five were in a “very critical” condition.

The injured journalist is Shushmita Sen of Ekushey Television, while her mother is Geeta Sen.

The two other women are advocate Khodeja Nasrin and banker Masuma Akter, and the injured policeman is Nur Nabi, 55, an assistant sub-inspector at Rajarbagh Police Lines.

With them, the number of arson victims of the BNP-led 18-party alliance hartal and blockade this month rose to 52. Eight of them died so far, including Nahid.

Yesterday’s incident happened when blockaders set the Bihanga Paribahan bus aflame with gun powder around 6:30pm, said Shibli Noman, assistant commissioner of (Ramna division) Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Driver Mahbub Hasan, who was instantly on fire, lost control and hit the road divider. He is among those in a critical condition.

The Mirpur-bound bus was carrying about 50 passengers. Most of them jumped out of the vehicle through windows.

Anwar Hossain, who works at a flower shop at Shahbagh, said he was walking by the footpath when he saw two people came on a motorbike through the Suhrawardy Udyan gate.

As the bus came near them, the person sitting at the back of the bike set a match to a bottle of liquid and hurled it into the bus. The front part of the bus burst into flames immediately, he said.

Abdur Rahman, owner of a tea stall opposite the Shishu Park, rushed to the spot with drums of water to douse the fire.

“I saw burning people running madly across the street. Those trapped inside were thrashing about trying to get out, since the front part of the bus was in flames,” he added.

Wailing mother, left, and wife, right, of Shariful Islam, a bank employee, who was among 19 passengers burnt inside a bus in the capital’s Shahbagh last evening following an attack by arsonists as the third day of BNP-led opposition’s 71-hour blockade was in progress. 

Meanwhile, the arrival of the 19 emergency patients together caught the hospital unawares. The emergency ward of the burn unit has seven beds, with one them already occupied. So the injured had to be dumped two at a time on the seven beds until more beds could be joined end-to-end.

Shafiqul Syed, whose entire face was burned, turned to this correspondent and broke down in tears. “Please stop the burning on my face, please tell the doctors to come to me, please tell them that I can’t walk up to them!”

Since the latest spell of opposition agitation that began on October 27, at least 19 drivers of different vehicles came under arson attacks.

One of them, 19-year-old human haulier driver Mozammel, died at the DMCH yesterday. His vehicle was set aflame by arsonists on Tuesday night at Madartek in the capital.

Such attacks have created fear among drivers and their families.

Saleha Begum, whose husband is a CNG-run auto-rickshaw driver, says her husband must still take the risk of going out if the family is to survive. “We have five children to feed,” she said.

Then there are those who do not take the risk. Habibur Rahman, 45, is one of them. The truck driver has not taken out his vehicle for nearly a month of this ongoing hartal and blockade.

Abdul Barek, another auto-rickshaw driver from Mirpur, has recently developed paranoia about passengers, as in several cases arsonists posing as passengers attacked vehicles.

“I cannot trust them. I keep thinking that they might be arsonists posing as passengers. If they put their hands in their pockets, I cringe thinking they might be preparing to take out a bomb.”



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