Dhaka – At least four people died in a fire on a crowded train in the Bangladeshi capital Tuesday, with police accusing opposition activists of deliberate sabotage ahead of general elections.
Dhaka railway police chief Anwar Hossain said the victims were burned to death, and photographs released by the fire service showed flames leaping from a railway coach.
“We have recovered four bodies,” Hossain told AFP.
“We suspect it is an act of sabotage. We suspect those who called a strike and transport blockade and their associates have committed this.”
Bakul Akhter, a 50-year-old passenger on the packed train which caught fire as it arrived in Dhaka shortly before dawn on Tuesday, told AFP: “We were engulfed by smoke… everyone was struggling to breathe.”
Akhter was separated from her 20-year-old son, Khokon Mia, in the chaos.
#BNP #Jamaat arson on Dhaka bound Mohanganj Express train killed a mother and a child and 2 more.
This is how @bdbnp78 @BJI_Official are restoring #democracy in #Bangladesh.
🌐 https://t.co/00KSnJsX0s pic.twitter.com/FOSVakiEzj
— Tonmoy Ahmed (@tonmoybuet) December 19, 2023
“I pray he is alive,” she said.
Police said it was the second case of a suspected attack on a train in the past week.
Officers detained at least seven members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) following a train derailment that killed one person north of the capital on December 13.
The BNP, as well as other parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, are boycotting the January 7 elections.
They have been holding regular nationwide strikes and transport blockades to press demands for a vote under a neutral government, saying no election will be free and fair with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in power.
Hasina has rejected the demands as unconstitutional.
Police have arrested tens of thousands of opposition officials and activists over charges of violence following protests that escalated on October 28, which officers say left at least 11 people dead and some 376 vehicles torched.
A.K.M Wahiduzzaman, a spokesman of the BNP, denied his party was behind the acts of sabotage and blamed the authorities for “false flag” actions to discredit the opposition.
“These are pre-planned false flag operations aimed at blaming the opposition for the violence,” he told AFP.
Hasina has overseen a period of prolonged economic growth over 15 years in power in the world’s eighth most populous country, but there has been international alarm over democratic backsliding and thousands of extrajudicial killings.