A passenger train in Bangladesh, the Benapole Express, caught fire on Friday, resulting in the loss of five lives. The incident happened as the nation is struggling with political unrest and gearing up for national elections, which have been boycotted by the opposition.
The Benapole Express, traveling from the western city of Jessore to the capital Dhaka, saw a fire that engulfed at least four coaches.
Fire service officer Rakjibul Hasan reported the incident, stating that the fire occurred at Gopibagh, an old part of Dhaka near the main rail terminal.
Police commander Khandaker Al Moin confirmed the outcome, stating that five bodies have been recovered. Witnesses described the scene as hundreds rushed to rescue passengers from the burning train.
Authorities, including police chief Anwar Hossain, have expressed suspicions that the train fire was an act of sabotage.
However, specific details surrounding the alleged arson attack have not been disclosed. Investigations are underway to identify those responsible for this incident.
Just last month, another train fire occurred, leading to four fatalities. In that incident, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was blamed by the police and the government.
The BNP, however, denied involvement, stating that it was a pretext for a government crackdown on opposition parties.
The train fire happened against the backdrop of heightened political tensions in Bangladesh ahead of the scheduled national elections.
The BNP, along with numerous other parties, has opted to boycott what they label a sham vote. The political landscape has witnessed arrests of thousands of opposition activists following a protest campaign demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The opposition’s demands include the formation of a neutral caretaker government to administer the polls, a request rejected by Hasina’s government, citing constitutional limitations.
The election boycott by the BNP and its allies has created a challenging environment for about the credibility and fairness of the upcoming elections.
The train fire is the incident in a series of election-related violence in Bangladesh. The upcoming elections on Sunday have security measures, including the deployment of troops across the country. Soldiers in armored vehicles have been stationed to assist the civil administration in maintaining peace.
However, the pre-election phase has not been without casualties, with at least three people reported killed in violence contributed to political clashes since the official start of the campaign on December 18.
The European Union, has expressed apprehensions about the conduct of the upcoming elections. The EU ambassador to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, conveyed that the bloc would not send a full observer team due to uncertainties about meeting conditions for a fair electoral process.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Associate Spokesperson Florencia Soto Nino stated that the process is being closely monitored, addressing the hope for organized elections.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her last televised campaign speech, urged the nation to participate in the elections. She acknowledged any mistakes made and requested an opportunity to serve the people if re-elected.
Meanwhile, the senior joint secretary general of the BNP, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, called for a 48-hour general strike and urged people not to vote, denouncing the elections as illegal.