One Dead, 50 Hurt In Bangladesh Airport Protest

January 31, 2011

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Angry protesters in Bangladesh clashed with police on Monday over a government plan to acquire their land for a new airport, killing one policeman and injuring dozens.

Bangladeshi police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse villagers who set fire to a police camp during the protests, witnesses said.

The protesters, many carrying sticks, choppers and spears, burnt a police van and barricaded main roads, they added.

Villagers and opposition political parties oppose the plan to build the new international airport only a few kilometres from Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal airport.

Police said one of their officers was killed and some 50 people, including at least nine policemen, were injured in the clashes.

"We are facing a huge problem with violent protesters, many policemen are also injured, there's nothing more I can say at the moment," said a police officer on duty at their control room in the area.

"It's a running battle going on between security forces and thousands of protesters streaming out of their villages," said another police officer at the scene.

State Minister for Law, Qamrul Islam, said on Sunday the project would go ahead and the protests were being "provoked by the government's foes."

Affected people would be adequately compensated, he said.

The airport is due to be named after the dead father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country's independence leader and first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

"The violence is spreading though firefighters have doused the camp fire," a witness said by telephone from Munshiganj district, 20 km (12 miles) south of the capital.

"Police are struggling to reopen the closed roads but failed, being overwhelmed by the surge of men and women," said another witness.

Bangladesh has three international airports: in Dhaka, the southeastern city of Chittagong and Sylhet in the northeast.

Critics say those airports are not operating at capacity and there is no need for another one.