Violence erupts in Bangladesh protest over airport plan

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Monday, 31 January 2011 08:17 GMT

DHAKA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi police fired teargas and rubber bullets on Monday to disperse angry villagers who set fire to a police camp during protests against a government plan to acquire their land for a new airport, witnesses said.

Villagers and opposition political parties oppose the plan to build the new international airport only few kilometres from Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal airport.

It is due to be named after the dead father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country's independence leader and first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

"The violence is spreading though firefighters have doused the camp fire," a Reuters witness said by telephone from Munshiganj district, 20 km (12 miles) south of the capital.

The protesters, many carrying sticks and spears, also burned a police van and barricaded main roads. Dozens of people including seven policemen had been injured, the witnesses said.

"We are facing a huge problem with violent protesters, many policemen are also injured, there's nothing more I can say at the moment," said a police officer on duty at their control room in the area.

State Minister for Law, Qamrul Islam, said on Sunday the project would go ahead and the protests were being "provoked by the government's foes".

Affected people would be adequately compensated, he said.

Bangladesh has three international airports: in Dhaka, the southeastern city of Chittagong and Sylhet in the northeast.

Critics say those airports are not operating at capacity and there is no need for another one. (Reporting by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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