Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – The 36-hour hartal enforced by the BNP-led 18-party alliance is going on across the country on Wednesday amid stray incidents of clashes, bomb explosions, vandalism and arson.

The strike, which was called for immediate release of BNP leaders and activists and withdrawal of cases filed against them relating to the arson, vandalism and bomb explosion, will continue till 6:00 pm on Thursday.

Considering distresses of the people of tornado-hit Brahmanbaria district, main opposition BNP has decided to keep it out of the strike, generally known as hartal.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) members have also been deployed in some parts of Dhaka and Chittagong to help police to maintain law and order while mobile magistrate teams remained vigilant in the capital.

Plainclothes police with still and video cameras have been put on alert at some strategic points in the capital to identify the troublemakers.

Reports of stray incidents of clashes, vandalism, torching vehicles, and explosion of crude bombs reached here from different parts of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Rajshahi, Barisal and some other parts of the country during first half-day of 36 hours strike.

Police and witnesses said pickets set fire to CNG- run auto-rickshaw in Dhaka's Hatirjheel area in the morning and also vandalized some vehicles and exploded crude bombs at Elephant Road, Mohammadpur, Khilgaon, Tejgaon Industrial area, Jatrabari, Dhalpur, Mirpur-10 and Gabtali.

Police was forced to open fire on the troublemakers who were trying to vandalize a bus and locked into clashes with the law enforcers on Elephant Road in the city.

In the run up to the hartal, BNP and Jamaat-Shibir activists turned violent in the city on Tuesday vandalizing and torching at least 13 motor vehicles.

Movement of vehicles was thin on the street due to the general strike but buses on different routes plied defying the hartal call, witnesses said.

Officials and transport operators said the shutdown affected little the countrywide train services, flight operations on domestic and international routes and launch services.

Operations including loading and unloading at ports were almost normal during the hartal hours. Banks, insurances, Dhaka Stock Exchange and other commercial institutions continued their operations as usual amid tight security vigil.

BBN/SSR/AD-27Mar13-12:18 pm (BST)