Two people were killed and scores of others injured as protesters set off homemade bombs and set fire to cars during a strike demanding Bangladesh’s government step aside ahead of January elections, reports said.
Security was tight across the capital, Dhaka, with extra police and paramilitary guards patrolling the streets at the start of the three-day, opposition-organised strike on Monday.
|Strikes cost Bangladesh $3bn a day|
A government official said clashes erupted between hundreds of supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the ruling Awami League in Patgram, about 300km north of Dhaka.
A doctor at Patgram hospital said an opposition protester had died after being shot and 16 other people were injured in the clashes.
Another man died after his vehicle was attacked with homemade bombs a day earlier in a Dhaka suburb, hospital doctor said.
Scores of others were injured on Monday in clashes across the country, television stations reported.
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami – allied with the opposition – are holding the strike in a bid to force the government to step down.
A similar protest last week also turned violent, with at least 16 people killed in clashes as opposition members tried to enforce the strike.
The violence comes at a time of deep tension in Bangladesh, a nation struggling to overcome extreme poverty, bitter politics and a string of horrific accidents linked to the garment industry.
The election, expected in January, has become a flashpoint in the decades-old rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina and the opposition leader, Khaleda Zia.
The opposition says Hasina’s government is not capable of holding a credible election, and it wants a neutral caretaker administration from outside the political parties to oversee the vote.
Hasina has agreed to form a caretaker government, but only with members of the ruling and opposition parties.
Besides the election-related violence, a war crimes tribunal stemming from Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan has become another incendiary political issue.
Hasina formed the tribunal in 2010. But most of those facing trial are members of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic party allied to the opposition. Zia says the trials are politically motivated to weaken the opposition.
On Sunday, the tribunal sentenced two Bangladeshis to death in absentia for crimes against humanity during the war.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators killed three million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.