December 14, 2018 / 10:02 AM / a year ago

Veteran Bangladeshi opposition leader attacked as poll tensions surge

DHAKA (Reuters) - Ruling party activists in Bangladesh attacked a veteran opposition leader on Friday as he traveled through the capital, he opposition said, injuring about 12 supporters and inflaming tension just over two weeks before a general election.

FILE PHOTO: Kamal Hossain, a leader of the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Kamal Hossain, an octogenarian Oxford-educated international jurist now heading an opposition alliance, was not hurt when his convoy was attacked by men wielding sticks and stones as he returned from placing flowers on a memorial to victims of Bangladesh’s independence war, an opposition spokesman said.

“At least 12 workers and activists of the alliance were injured and several vehicles of senior leaders damaged,” the opposition spokesman, Latiful Bari Hamim, told Reuters.

Mahbub Alam Hanif, a senior official of the ruling Awami League, dismissed the accusation against his party’s supporters.

Police said they had looked into the report of trouble but had found nothing untoward. They would investigate if a complaint was lodged.

Bangladeshi elections are often violent and marred by ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation.

For years, politics has been defined by fierce rivalry between two women - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who leads the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the longest serving leader in Bangladesh’s history, and is seeking a third straight term.

She began a second term in 2014, after an election boycotted by the BNP.

Until two months ago, the BNP was in disarray following the jailing in February of Khaleda, on charges she said were politically motivated.

But the BNP joined hands with smaller parties to form the alliance led by Hossain in October, setting the stage for a more competitive race.

Hossain, 82, was not available for comment.

Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Writing by Zeba Siddiqui; Editing by Robert Birsel

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