Bangladesh capital tense after rally blocked

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - The capital of Bangladesh remained tense Monday, a day after security officials foiled an opposition move to hold a rally in defiance of a government ban.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and its allies had planned a mass gathering in Dhaka on Sunday but police barred Zia from leaving her home while cordoning off the venue in front of the party's headquarters.

The rally was planned to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to cancel upcoming elections and hand over power to a caretaker government to oversee the vote.

Security officials also put barricades at entry points into Dhaka, and kept public transport off the streets across the country on Sunday, making it difficult for Zia's supporters to move.

Zia's party condemned the government's stand and has vowed to continue its protest unless the government halts the Jan. 5 election.

The party has said it would continue the protest Monday, and urged its supporters to block roads, railways and waterways across the country.

Dhaka remained cut off from rest of the country amid tight security. But no major violence was reported Monday morning.

On Sunday, security forces and opposition activists clashed in the city, leaving at least one person dead.

Reports said authorities had detained more than 1,550 people in a crackdown ahead of next weekend's elections, further deepening the political crisis in the impoverished South Asian nation.

More than 150 people have died in political violence in Bangladesh since the crisis intensified in October. The conflict pits an opposition alliance led by Zia's party against Hasina, who accuses Zia of protecting people being tried or convicted of war crimes involving the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Jamaat-e-Islami, the main partner of Zia's party, wants the government to halt the war crimes trials of its leaders. Zia says the trials initiated by Hasina are politically motivated to weaken the opposition, which the government denies. Jamaat-e-Islami is banned from taking part in the election.

Businesses have expressed concern about the political standoff, saying the conflict is hampering the country's progress in manufacturing, including a burgeoning garment industry that earns more than $20 billion a year from exports.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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