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Central & South Asia

Hasina strikes defiant note in final speech

Bangladesh PM singles out rival Khaleda Zia for criticism over her refusal to take part in poll as unrest continues.

Last updated: 02 Jan 2014 19:53
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Khaleda, left, and Hasina have engaged in a war of words in the run-up to January 5 election [AFP]

Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladeshi prime minister, has said elections will take place as planned and accused the opposition leader of holding the country hostage.

In remarks broadcast on Thursday, Hasina criticised her rivals, who have refused to participate in this weekend's polls, and singled out Khaleda Zia from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

"We have tried our best to bring the BNP into the elections," said Hasina, who is the leader of the ruling Awami League.

"She [Khaleda Zia] spurned my offer for dialogue and instead chose the path of confrontation.

"She held the people to hostage in the name of strikes and blockades," Hasina said, blaming Zia supporters for the deaths of civilians and security forces.

The run-up to the election has been marred by violence.

More than 140 people have been killed since Hasina announced two months ago that she would not stand aside and let a caretaker government organise the elections.

Hasina's speech, her final before Sunday's poll, coincided with continued unrest in the capital, Dhaka.

Local media reported that at least 15 people were injured after several crude bombs exploded at the election rally of a ruling party candidate on Thursday afternoon.

UNB News Agency said the blasts occurred after an Awami League election rally had finished.

It was also reported that devices were detonated near the residence of Khaleda Zia, although no injuries were reported and no arrests were made.

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