Four Sentenced To Hang In Bangladesh Over Celebrated Writer’s Murder

Police escort two Islamist extremists after a court sentenced them to death over the brutal murder of Dhaka University professor and award-winning author Humayun Azad, in Dhaka on April 13, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

 

 

A Bangladesh court sentenced four extremists to hang Wednesday for their fatal machete attack on a celebrated writer, in a case that took nearly two decades to reach a verdict.

The men brutally maimed award-winning author and language professor Humayun Azad outside a book fair in 2004 — the first in a wave of violent attacks on free speech advocates in the Muslim-majority country.

Images of a blood-soaked Azad after the attack shocked the country, and a legion of fans mourned when the 56-year-old died several months later while seeking treatment in Germany.

Two of the attackers are still at large, and a fifth member was shot dead by police in 2014 after reportedly attempting to flee a prison van.

“Four were handed down the death penalty over the murder including two who were sentenced to death in absentia,” Abdullah Abu, chief prosecutor in the capital Dhaka, told AFP.

The perpetrators were members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned Islamist outfit whose leader ordered Azad’s murder after the author penned a book that mocked and criticised fundamentalists.

The organisation was also responsible for a series of deadly bomb blasts around the turn of the century, and several senior members were executed in 2007.

There was no immediate comment from Azad’s family after the verdict. His son moved to Germany after allegedly facing online threats.

But relatives have expressed dismay over the slow pace of the trial.

“I’ve no interest in the verdict. What’s the point of a verdict after 18 years?” Azad’s brother Manjur Kabir told online news portal Bdnews24 on Tuesday.

“I’m not in a position to feel happy or have regrets. We don’t want justice or a verdict anymore.”

Azad’s widow “feels the same”, he added.

The writer’s murder was followed years later by a series of fatal machete attacks on secular and atheist writers as well as gay rights activists by a JMB offshoot.

Eleven years to the day after the attack on Azad, US-based writer Avijit Roy was hacked to death as he was leaving the same book fair.

Bangladesh has since launched a nationwide crackdown on Islamist groups, killing more than 100 militants in raids across the country and arresting more than 1,000 suspected extremists.

Five Dead, Dozens Feared Missing In Bangladesh Ferry Sinking

Fire service and civil defence personnel conduct a rescue operation after a ferry sank in Shitalakshya river in Narayanganj on March 20, 2022.  (Photo by Sony RAMANY / AFP)

 

At least five people are dead and dozens more are believed missing after a bulk carrier crashed into a small ferry in a river near Bangladesh’s capital on Sunday.

Police said nearly two dozen people managed to swim ashore after the MV Ruposhi-9 inland cargo carrier ran over the MV Afsaruddin, southeast of Dhaka.

Footage of the sinking aired by local media showed people shouting in alarm as the cargo vessel collided with the ferry and jumping into the polluted waterway as the boat quickly sank.

“We have recovered five bodies including a man, three women and a child,” local police chief Shah Jaman told AFP.

The ferry was believed to be carrying more than 60 passengers, 22 of whom had safely swum ashore, police inspector Aslam Mia said.

District administrator Monjurul Hafiz said coast guard personnel and divers were assisting with rescue efforts.

A large crowd had gathered on both banks of the Shitalakshya river to watch the search for survivors.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, with experts blaming poor maintenance, lax safety standards and overcrowding.

A ferry sank in Dhaka last June after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people.

At least 78 people died in February 2015 when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital.

AFP

Ferry Fire: Bangladesh Police Arrest Owner After Death Of 39 People

The burnt-out ferry is seen anchored along a coast a day after it caught fire killing at least 37 people in Jhalkathi, 250 km (160 miles) south of Dhaka on December 24, 2021. Arifur Rahman / AFP

 

Bangladesh police on Monday arrested the owner of an overcrowded ferry that caught fire and killed at least 39 people last week after investigators blamed the toll on a disregard for safety.

The blaze broke out in the middle of the night on Friday when many of the ferry’s 700 passengers were sleeping near the southern district of Barguna.

Survivors relayed harrowing stories of having to jump into the Sugandha river from the three-storey ferry, which was only designed to carry 420 people.

Most of the victims burnt to death while others drowned in frigid waters while trying to escape.

Ferry owner Hum Jalal Sheikh was arrested Monday, a police spokesman told reporters, a day after a court issued an arrest warrant for eight people including the captain and crew of the Obhijaan-10.

Marine police officer Mahbubur Rahman said the vessel did not have adequate fire extinguishers and buoys to face a major mid-river accident.

“We spoke to the survivors and they said the driver of the ferry kept the vessel moving for nearly an hour after its engine room caught fire,” he told AFP.

“Had they stopped the ferry and anchored immediately, it could have saved all these valuable lives.”

Experts in Bangladesh blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding for the South Asian nation’s frequent maritime disasters.

At least 21 people were killed in August when a boat packed with passengers collided with a sand-laden cargo ship.

AFP

At Least 37 Dead In Bangladesh Ferry Fire

Bangladesh flag

 

At least 37 people died when an overcrowded night ferry caught fire in Bangladesh on Friday, police said, as terrified passengers leaped overboard to escape the blaze.

The latest maritime tragedy to hit the impoverished low-lying nation happened in the early hours in a river near Jhalokathi, 250 kilometres (160 miles) south of Dhaka.

“We have recovered 37 bodies. The death toll may rise. Most died from the fire and a few by drowning after many people jumped into the river,” local police chief Moinul Islam told AFP.

The blaze was believed to have originated in the engine room and ripped through the ferry, Islam said. Despite having an official capacity of 310 the vessel was carrying at least 500 people, many of who were returning home from the capital.

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“We have sent some 100 people with burn injuries to hospitals in Barisal,” he said.

Witnesses said the fire originated at around 3:00 am (2100 GMT) and quickly spread.

“We were sleeping on a mat on the ground floor deck. All the passengers were sleeping. My nine-year-old grandson, Nayeem, was with me, he jumped into the river. I don’t know what happened to him,” said an elderly grandmother.

Other survivors said they saw a small fire in the engine room as soon as the packed ferry set off from the Sadarghat river station in Dhaka at 9:00 pm on Thursday.

“A lot of people ran for safety as the fire spread. A lot of people could not get out of their cabins where they were sleeping. Many jumped into the river,” said another survivor at Barisal Medical College Hospital.

Johar Ali, the local district administrator, said rescuers arrived at the scene within an hour after the fire broke out and rushed the injured to nearby hospitals.

“We spoke to passengers. And they said there were between 500 and 700 passengers,” he told AFP.

“The fire went on for four or five hours before it was doused. The entire [ferry] has been gutted. But they managed to bring it to the shore,” Ali said.

Local television showed images of burnt motorcycles and gutted cabins inside the boat.

Shell-shocked survivors and their relatives crowded the shore as fire service and coast guard divers scoured the muddy waters.

The accident was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the delta country crisscrossed by rivers.

Experts in the South Asian nation of 170 million people blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding.

In August at least 21 people were killed when a boat packed with passengers and a sand-laden cargo ship collided. In April and May, 54 were killed in two separate accidents.

In June last year, a ferry sank in Dhaka after it was hit from behind by another ferry, killing at least 32 people. In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel.

Fires are also a regular source of tragedy. In July, 52 people perished in a blaze in a food and beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka.

And at least 70 people died in February 2019 when fire tore through Dhaka apartments where chemicals were illegally stored.

AFP

20 Bangladesh Students Sentenced To Death For Murder

Bangladesh flag

 

Bangladesh sentenced 20 university students to death on Wednesday for the brutal 2019 murder of a young man who criticised the government on social media. 

The battered body of Abrar Fahad, 21, was found in his university dormitory hours after he wrote a Facebook post slamming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for signing a water-sharing deal with India.

He was beaten with a cricket bat and other blunt objects for six hours by 25 fellow students who were members of the ruling Awami League’s student wing, the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL).

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“I am happy with the verdict,” Fahad’s father Barkat Ullah told reporters outside court after the verdict. “I hope the punishments will be served soon.”

Prosecutor Abdullah Abu told AFP that the remaining five perpetrators were sentenced to life imprisonment.

All those handed death sentences were between 20 and 22 years old and attended the elite Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology alongside Fahad.

Three of the defendants are still at large while the rest were in the courtroom.

A lawyer for the defendants said the sentence would be appealed.

‘Highest punishment’ 

Fahad had put up a post on Facebook that went viral hours before his death.

In it, he criticised the government for signing an accord that allowed India to take water from a river that lies on the boundary the two countries share.

Fahad had been seen — in leaked CCTV footage that went viral on social media — walking into a dormitory with some BCL activists.

About six hours later, his body was carried out by the students and laid on the ground.

The BCL has earned notoriety in recent years after some of its members were accused of killing, violence and extortion.

In 2018, its members allegedly used violence to suppress a major anti-government student protest.

Those protests were sparked by anger over road safety after a student was killed by a speeding bus.

Protesters have called for the attackers to be harshly punished and for the BCL to be banned.

Hasina vowed soon after the attacks that the killers would get the “highest punishment”.

Death sentences are common in Bangladesh with hundreds of people on death row. All executions are by hanging, a legacy of the British colonial era.

In August, a court sentenced six Islamist extremists to death for the brutal murders of two gay rights activists.

AFP

Bangladesh Sentences Former Chief Justice To 11 Years In Jail

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
File Photo

 

Bangladesh’s former chief justice was sentenced in absentia to 11 years in jail for corruption on Tuesday, in a case that opposition groups and supporters say is politically motivated.

Surendra Kumar Sinha, 70, headed the Supreme Court when it ruled in 2017 that parliament could not sack judges, a move hailed by lawyers as safeguarding judicial independence.

Sinha left Bangladesh in late 2017 alleging he had been forced to step aside following the landmark ruling. He lives in North America where he has reportedly sought asylum.

Campaigners have said his departure was a massive blow to the credibility of the country’s judiciary and accused the government of going after Sinha.

“It was very obvious that the government was angry with him and… was determined to just kill his reputation,” Asif Nazrul, a law professor at Dhaka University told AFP.

Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam of Special Judge’s Court in Dhaka delivered Tuesday’s verdict, ordering Sinha to serve seven years in jail for laundering money and four years for breach of trust, prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan said.

“This verdict proved that nobody in the country is above law. Wrongdoings will bring anyone in the trial,” he told AFP.

Sinha was the first Hindu chief justice in the officially secular Muslim-majority nation of 169 million.

He later wrote a book titled “A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights & Democracy” in which he said he had been forced to resign and flee after being threatened by a military security agency.

Bangladesh Arrests More Than 170 Rohingya After Leader’s Murder

Bangladesh on the map

 

 

Bangladesh police have arrested 172 Rohingya in recent weeks after a crackdown sparked by the brutal murder of a prominent community leader, the force said Monday.

Mohib Ullah was gunned down in late September in a refugee camp near the port city of Cox’s Bazar, in a region home to over 700,000 members of the stateless Muslim minority who fled a 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar.

The 48-year-old teacher emerged as a respected advocate for the community but in the weeks before his assassination had been the target of death threats from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group.

Among those arrested in the weeks since were 10 suspected of involvement in the killing, said Naimul Haque, commander of the elite Armed Police Battalion (APB).

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“Our drives against the miscreants in the camps will continue,” he added.

Another 114 people taken into custody had declared themselves ARSA members, Haque’s unit said in a statement.

Bangladesh routinely denies that the insurgents operate in the refugee camps, claiming instead that criminals involved in armed violence and drug trafficking use the group’s name to trade on their reputation.

But family and colleagues of Mohib Ullah have blamed the group for his murder, an allegation that ARSA denies.

Police have also relocated more than 70 people, including the slain leader’s family and relatives of seven people shot dead last month in an assault on an Islamic school — another attack blamed on the militants.

“All the families of the victims were terrified after these incidents,” senior officer Kamran Hossain told AFP.

Nurul Islam, a Rohingya refugee whose son was killed in the school attack, said his family felt too afraid to remain in the camps.

“All Rohingya are unsafe from ARSA,” he told AFP by phone. “They want to kill us, they want instability.”

The UN refugee agency said it had assisted in moving the group to a safer location.

Greaves Stars As Scotland Stun Bangladesh In T20 World Cup

Scotland’s players celebrate their win in the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Bangladesh and Scotland at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground in Muscat on October 17, 2021. (Photo by Haitham AL-SHUKAIRI / AFP)

 

Chris Greaves starred with bat and ball as Scotland shocked Bangladesh with a six-run win on Sunday’s opening day of the Twenty20 World Cup.

Greaves’ 28-ball 45 guided Scotland to 140-9 and he then took two key wickets with his leg spin to keep down Bangladesh to 134-7 in the second first-round match of the day in Muscat.

Greaves, who had earlier rescued Scotland from 53-6 with his batting, sent back Shakib Al Hasan, for 20, and Mushfiqur Rahim, for 38 to dent Bangladesh’s chase.

Pace bowler Brad Wheal returned figures of 3-24 as world number six Bangladesh suffered an early setback in their fight to make the Super 12 stage.

“We’ve got a huge belief in our squad, and any player coming in has the ability to hit the ball over the ropes, as Chris Greaves and Josh Davey at the end showed,” Scotland skipper Kyle Coetzer said after the win.

“It just shows we can win a game from anywhere. We believe even more now that we can keep on pushing and challenging teams.”

Scotland are second in the Group B table, just behind hosts Oman, who thrashed Papua New Guinea by 10 wickets earlier in the day.

The top two teams will advance into the next stage and join the heavyweights in the seventh edition of T20’s global showpiece.

Bangladesh spinners Mahedi Hasan and Shakib justified their captain’s decision of bowling first by taking regular wickets but Greaves gave Scotland crucial runs with his late cameo of 45.

Scotland tried to rebuild after losing Coetzer for nought but Mahedi soon struck twice in an over to send back Matthew Cross, for 11, and opener George Munsey, for 29.

Shakib joined forces with another double strike and his wicket of Michael Leask for nought got him past Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga as the leading wicket-taker in T20 internationals.

Shakib, who is the only player to achieve a T20 double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, returned figures of 2-17 while Mahedi was the wrecker-in-chief with 3-19.

Greaves, batting at number seven, hit back with four fours and two sixes as Scotland plundered 53 runs from the last 30 deliveries.

“Bowlers did their job really well but the batting unit wasn’t good enough,” said Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad.

“Credit goes to their batters, they had a good finish. We still need to be positive and figure out where we made mistakes, and try not to repeat them.”

Bangladesh lost their openers early before Shakib and Mushfiqur put on 47 runs for the third wicket to put the chase back on track.

Greaves broke the stand with his first ball, getting Shakib caught at the boundary and then bowled Mushfiqur at the start of his second over.

Wheal rattled the middle order with key strikes including Mahmudullah for 23 and even a late burst by Mahedi could not take Bangladesh over the line.

20 Killed, 300,000 Stranded In Flood-Hit Bangladesh Region

A child wades through a flooded area using a makeshift raft at Maulovir Para, Cox’s Bazar on July 30, 2021 after monsoon floods and landslides have cut off more than 300,000 people in villages across southeast Bangladesh and killed at least 20 people including six Rohingya refugees.
Tanbir MIRAJ / AFP

 

Monsoon floods and landslides have cut off more than 300,000 people in villages across southeast Bangladesh and killed at least 20 people including six Rohingya refugees, officials said Friday.

The region along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border where nearly one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are in camps has been battered by torrential rain since Monday.

“The floods have stranded some 306,000 people in Cox’s Bazar district. At least 70 villages have been submerged by floods,” Mamunur Rashid, the district administrator, told AFP.

“At least 20 people have died in floods and landslides including six Rohingya refugees,” he added.

About 36,000 people have been moved into schools and cyclone shelters, officials said.

“Many homes are waterlogged. Thousands of people have not been able to get out for the last three days. The roads are all blocked,” Tipu Sultan, a councillor in remote Jhilwanja Union, told AFP by telephone.

Earlier this week Bangladesh evacuated 10,000 Rohingya from around refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar because of the storms.

Aid workers said a coronavirus lockdown in the camps, following a major spike in cases, has affected rescue work as access is restricted.

About 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017 after security forces launched a clampdown that the UN has said may amount to genocide.

Thousands Flock To See Dwarf Cow In Bangladesh

People take pictures of a dwarf cow named Rani, whose owners applied to the Guinness Book of Records claiming it to be the smallest cow in the world, at a cattle farm in Charigram, about 25 km from Savar on July 6, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

Thousands of people are defying a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in Bangladesh to see Rani, a 51-centimetre (20-inch) tall cow whose owners claim it is the world’s smallest.

The 23-month-old dwarf cow has become a media star with scores of newspapers and television stations throwing the spotlight on the tiny bovine at a farm near Dhaka.

Pictures of Rani on social media platforms have set off a tourist frenzy.

Despite a nationwide transport shutdown because of record coronavirus infections and deaths, people are flocking in rickshaws to the farm in Charigram, 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of Dhaka.

 

People take pictures of a dwarf cow named Rani, whose owners applied to the Guinness Book of Records claiming it to be the smallest cow in the world, at a cattle farm in Charigram, about 25 km from Savar on July 6, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. Never,” said Rina Begum, 30, who came from a neighbouring town.

Rani is 66 centimetres (26 inches) long and weighs only 26 kilograms (57 pounds) but the owners say it is 10 centimetres shorter than the smallest cow in Guinness World Records.

M.A. Hasan Howlader, manager of Shikor Agro farm, used a tape measure to show dozens of onlookers how Rani dwarfs her closest rival Manikyam, a cow in the Indian state Kerala that currently holds the world record.

“People come long distances despite the coronavirus lockdown. Most want to take selfies with Rani,” Howlader told AFP, adding Guinness World Records had promised a decision in three months.

“More than 15,000 people have come to see Rani in the past three days alone,” he said.

“Honestly speaking, we are tired.”

Guinness World Records said Manikyam, from the Vechur breed, was 61 centimetres high in June 2014.

Rani is a Bhutti, or Bhutanese, cow which is prized for its meat in Bangladesh. The other Bhuttis on the farm are twice Rani’s size.

 

People take pictures of a dwarf cow named Rani, whose owners applied to the Guinness Book of Records claiming it to be the smallest cow in the world, at a cattle farm in Charigram, about 25 km from Savar on July 6, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

“We did not expect such huge interest. We did not think people would leave their homes because of the worsening virus situation. But they have come here in droves,” the manager said.

Sajedul Islam, the government’s chief vet for the region, said Rani is a product of “genetic inbreeding” and was unlikely to become any bigger.

Islam said he had told the farm to restrict the tourist influx.

“I told them they should not allow so many people to crowd the farm. They may carry diseases here that threaten Rani’s health,” he said.

AFP

Thousands Stranded In Bangladesh Ahead Of COVID-19 Lockdown

People crowd to board a ferry as authorities ordered a new lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Munshiganj on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

Thousands of people were stranded in Bangladesh’s capital on Monday as authorities halted almost all public transport ahead of a sweeping lockdown imposed to combat a deadly resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

The South Asian nation reported pandemic highs of more than 8,300 fresh infections on Monday and 119 deaths on Sunday.

Officials blame the recent spike on the highly contagious Delta variant first identified in neighbouring India.

The majority of the South Asian nation’s 168 million population will be confined to their homes by Thursday as part of the restrictions, with only essential services and some export-facing factories allowed to operate.

The government’s cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said troops would be deployed from Thursday to help enforce the lockdown.

“The armed forces will be on patrol. If anyone ignores their orders, legal action will be available to them,” he told reporters late Monday.

The lockdown announcement sparked an exodus of migrant workers from the capital Dhaka to home villages on Sunday, with tens of thousands cramming into ferries to cross a major river.

The staggered implementation of the lockdown rules left thousands of workers in Dhaka forced to walk to their offices on Monday, sometimes for hours, in the sweltering summer heat.

Large columns of people were seen walking on the main roads early Monday. Workplaces will be shut from Wednesday.

Bicycle rickshaws were allowed to operate in a last-minute government concession late Sunday, but prices soared to unaffordable levels, commuters said.

“I started walking at 7 am. I could not get any bus or any other vehicles. I can’t afford a rickshaw ride,” Shefali Begum, 60, who was going to her daughter’s home in central Dhaka, told AFP.

Restrictions on activities and movement were imposed across Bangladesh in mid-April as cases and deaths jumped to their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

Infections declined in May but started to rise again this month, sparking the harsher restrictions.

The country has reported nearly 900,000 infections and just over 14,000 virus deaths, but experts say the actual toll could be much higher due to possible underreporting.

Health officials across the world have been alarmed by the rapid spread of the Delta variant, now reported by the WHO to have reached at least 85 countries.

More than two-thirds of new virus cases in Bangladesh’s capital were of the Delta variant, a recent study by the independent Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research reported.

“The rapid surge of the coronavirus cases in the country is due mostly to the Delta variant,” health services department spokesman Robed Amind told AFP.

He said studies outside of Dhaka have also shown the spread of the variant in border districts and the second-largest city Chittagong.

AFP

Migrant Workers Flee Capital As Bangladesh Tightens COVID-19 Lockdown

People crowd to board a ferry as authorities ordered a new lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Munshiganj on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

Tens of thousands of migrant workers fled Bangladesh’s capital Sunday on the eve of a tightened lockdown that will curtail most economic activity and confine people to their homes as coronavirus infections soar.

Restrictions on activities and movement have been in place since mid-April as cases and deaths jumped.

Infections declined in May but started to rise again this month, with just over 6,000 daily cases on Thursday and 108 deaths on Friday, according to the health ministry — the highest in more than two months.

The resurgence has prompted the government to toughen restrictions in stages from Monday, with economic activity — including shops, markets, transportation and offices — to shut down by Thursday.

People will be ordered to stay at homes while only emergency services and export-oriented factories continue operations.

The coming closure has sparked an exodus from Dhaka, the capital.

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With public inter-city transportation already suspended since June 22, people have squeezed into rickshaws, hopped onto motorbikes and even hired ambulances to make their way to their villages.

Ferries have been operating on overdrive, with some running services 24 hours a day and cramming more than 1,000 passengers onto each trip.

“We don’t want them to overcrowd the ferry. But they don’t listen,” said police sub-inspector Mohammad Reza. “There is a mad rush of people.”

A senior official at the state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation told AFP that at least 50,000 people had crossed the river by ferries on Sunday alone.

At a river station in the rural town of Sreenagar about 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Dhaka, thousands queued from early Sunday to cross the Padma, a tributary of the Himalayan river the Ganges.

 

People crowd to board a ferry as authorities ordered a new lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Munshiganj on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)

 

“We did not have any choice but to leave the city,” Fatema Begum, 60, told AFP while waiting for a ferry.

“During lockdown, there is no work. And if we don’t work, how do we pay rent? So we packed up everything and are going back to our village.”

Mohammad Masum, 30, a street vendor in Dhaka, said it was better to return home and “spend the time with family” than be confined in the capital.

Bangladesh has reported more than 880,000 infections and just over 14,000 virus deaths, but experts say the actual toll could be much higher due to possible underreporting.

AFP