Bangladeshi students participate in a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Five days of protests by tens of thousands of students angry over the traffic deaths of two of their colleagues have largely cut off the capital Dhaka from the rest of Bangladesh, as the demonstrators pressed their demand for safer roads. (AP Photo/A. M. Ahad)

Student protests surge in Bangladesh capital

August 05, 2018 - 10:50 am

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of angry young people took to the streets of Bangladesh's capital again Sunday to demand safer streets, facing police firing tear gas and pro-government activists who attacked them with clubs.

Protests have flared repeatedly in Dhaka since two students were killed last week by speeding buses.

The pro-government activists, members of a political youth league, also attacked at least five journalists, including an Associated Press photographer who was briefly hospitalized with a head injury. Footage of the attack on social media showed him surrounded and beaten by nearly a dozen men in the city's Dhanmondi neighborhood.

The protests have become a serious embarrassment to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ahead of a general election due in December. Her party is blaming the main opposition, led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, for using the student anger to create chaos for political gains. Political feuding between the two political leaders has dominated Bangladesh's politics for more than a decade.

Zia's party has formally extended its support to the protesters, but Hasina has also reached out to the demonstrators by pledging to improve road safety.

Unlicensed drivers, unregistered vehicles and speeding buses are commonplace on the roads in Bangladesh, where police corruption is rife and traffic enforcement often nonexistent. At least 12,000 people die each year in road accidents in the country.

The demonstrating students have stopped thousands of vehicles during the protests, including those of top officials, demanding to see if the cars were registered and the drivers licensed.

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