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Major Mannan's beverage factory bombed, rampaged
Correspondent, The Daily Star
Workers look at vandalised soft drink cans, right, and glass shards lie scattered on the floor, left, after hoodlums yesterday attacked a beverage factory in Savar of retired army major MA Mannan, who resigned from parliament and ruling BNP.
MA Mannan, owner of National Beverage and Sunman Food, who resigned from parliament as lawmaker and the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) on March 10, claimed the attackers cost the factory Tk 10 crore in lost property.
Witnesses said about 60 attackers arrived on 13 microbuses and four motorbikes and beat up the factory workers in Hemayetpur, sending them running for cover amid a string of gunshots and blasts of homemade bombs during a lunch break at 12:45pm.
Four workers suffered bomb injuries and two were hit by bullet before the gang vandalised three vehicles to force its way into the factory that produces a series of items such as Sun Crest Cola, Kickapoo, Maja mango juice, Bubble Up and Iceberg mineral water.
The attack on Mannan's factory came after customs officials' raid on his Dewanhat depot to seize 4,500 cases of Sun Crest soft drink and documents, forced closedown of eight garment factories in Chittagong and a bomb attack on his Gulshan house in Dhaka in closely-timed swoops on Saturday.
Political observers described the attacks as the ruling coalition backlash against Mannan who joined the alternative political stream of formed president Badruddoza Chowdhury as its member secretary.
The manager (distribution) of the factory filed a case with Savar Police Station at 6:15pm that Mannan, a retired army major, said refused to record it immediately after the incident.
"The government let loose miscreants to close my factories down and launched a move to freeze my bank accounts," any angry Mannan alleged at a post-attack press conference at Badruddoza's KC Memorial in Baridhara. "They will fail to subdue me this way."
"About 60 youths carrying guns and hockey sticks came by microbus and motorbike and asked me to open the gate," said Afzal, commander of the factory's guards, who pressed for their identity.
An incensed attacker hit him with a hockey stick and another fired at him, but the bullet missed the target as he ducked down. "The attackers burst into the factory beating up my colleague Harun-ur-Rashid," Afzal said.
The gang splintered into two -- one vandalising furniture and refrigerators and tearing off documents in the security office and another smashing two microbuses and a mini-truck.
"With some workers coming out for lunch, the attackers blasted as many as 25 bombs in a row and fired about 40 gunshots sending a wave of panic," said Khalilur Rahman, security in-charge.
Dense smokes from explosions covered the factory premises, said Nazmul, a production worker. "I thought the factory caught fire."
The gang raced upstairs and ransacked the offices of senior general manager and senior factory manager, a date-punching ma-chine, a computer, over 100 mango juice bottles, hundreds of cans and lights in the production room.
The raiders also vandalised the office of production officer and took away Tk 65,000 and documents from the plant engineer's drawer.
"We gathered to begin a chase and hurled bottles at them," said Manik, a worker, who joined his colleagues in frightening the attackers away after the 25-minute raid.
Harun-ur-Rashid and Khorshed Alam were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and the rest to local clinics with head, leg and abdomen injuries.
"Savar police came here and took away the spent bullets," Senior General Manager Aminul Islam said.
"The government is not beyond the legal reach. It has no right to harm a citizen this way only for political rivalry," Mannan told journalists.
"About 16,000 people working in my 30 factories will be jobless if the government continues attacks," he said.
"I export garments worth $150 million a year and the government has sent a letter threatening to freeze all accounts of a businessman like me who did not dodge tax," Mannan said.
Mahi B Chowdhury, who also resigned from parliament and the BNP with Mannan, alleged the government was destroying people's property by such attacks.
"While former president Ziaur Rahman advocated democratic pluralism, leaders of his party cannot tolerate the launch of a new political party now," Mahi said, calling on people to unite against what he said was tyranny of the coalition.
Badruddoza, convenor of the alternative platform for politics, condemned the bomb attacks on Mannan's residence and forced closedown of factories and alleged the attackers were trying to leave thousands jobless.
"The government-sponsored crimes are obstructing production and export," the former president said in a statement.
"The prime minister, who swore an oath of safeguarding the constitution, is now infringing on two fundamental rights by silencing people's voice and obstructing rallies," he said, adding the government is making clear its anti-people role.
Demanding an end to violence against Mannan, Badruddoza said the government must bear the responsibility for that.
Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star
Awami League President Sheikh Hasina addresses the first council of Jubo Mahila League, the young women's front of her party, at the Engineers' Institution Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday.
Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina yesterday accused Prime Minister Khaleda Zia of introducing a 'dual rule', one by herself and the other by her son in the Hawa Bhaban, dubbed as the political base of ruling BNP.
"The days of the BNP-Jamaat coalition are numbered and attacks on political opponents by alliance adherents will only quicken its fall," Hasina told the first council of Jubo Mohila League, young women's front of the Awami League (AL), at the auditorium of the Engineers' Institution, Bangladesh.
On the move to amend the constitution to reserve 45 parliamentary seats for women, the opposition leader said the AL rejected the proposed amendment, as the demand for direct elections to the seats was not reflected in it.
Hasina, also AL president, slammed the government for another constitutional change making mandatory the display of portraits of the president and prime minister in government offices. "It could be done by an executive order," she said.
She took a swipe at those who drew a parallel between the AL and the BNP that both have failed to govern the country and said: "Don't lump me with Khaleda Zia. The previous Awami League government has many successes but the BNP has totally failed."
She said the prices of essentials, which were stable during the AL rule, now went beyond the easy reach of people.
The former prime minister warned police and coalition-backed activists of consequences of violence on her party leaders and workers, as she said time is closing in on them.
Advocate Sahara Khatun and Professor Sultana Shafi also spoke at the meeting, chaired by Nazma Akhter, who was elevated from convenor to president of Jubo Mahila League yesterday. Hasina announced a new central committee of the organisation with Apu Ukil as its general secretary.
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