Bangladesh on edge as polls anniversary protests turn violent

Two supporters of Bangladesh's main opposition party shot dead in clashes with ruling party activists Monday.

Bangladesh on edge as polls anniversary protests turn violent

World Bulletin/News Desk

Bangladesh was on edge on Monday after two protesters were shot dead and scores injured in clashes between the ruling party and opposition activists, a grim marking of the first anniversary of last year's controversial and violent national polls.

Two supporters of Bangladesh's main opposition party were shot dead in clashes with ruling party activists Monday, local media reported. 

The clashes in the northern town of Natore came on a day when both the ruling party and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party had planned demonstrations across the country.

Two people riding a motorbike opened fire on a crowd of protesters, Aminul Haque, a local Bangladesh Nationalist Party official said. 

The normally clogged streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, were nearly empty on Monday afternoon, as authorities cut off bus, rail and ferry services in to the city and thousands of riot police were deployed in anticipation of more unrest.

"Security has been ramped up across the country, including Dhaka, to thwart any untoward incidents," Dhaka district police chief Habibur Rahman told Reuters.

Bangladesh has been a state of political uncertainty since last January, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League came to power for a second consecutive term after a bloody parliamentary election that was boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and deemed as flawed by international observers.

On Monday, despite police warnings, opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia refused to call off rallies planned in Dhaka to mark what the BNP has dubbed "democracy killing day."

Khaleda, a former prime minister herself, has demanded fresh polls under a neutral administration, calling Hasina's government "undemocratic and illegal".

The opposition leader says she has been confined to her office in Dhaka's diplomatic enclave since Saturday, according to BNP's party officials, with armoured vehicles equipped with water cannons parked outside.

Police had locked the main gate of Khaleda's office as she prepared to leave the office, witnesses said.

The government denied Khaleda was being confined, saying it had deployed extra security forces to ensure the former prime minister's security.

"Khaleda Zia is not confined," Hasina reportedly said at a meeting of her party's student wing on Sunday, according to media.

"Who has confined her? She can go to her residence any time."

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the 2014 elections after the government refused their request for the restoration of a caretaker government system, intended to guard against vote-rigging. 

BNP officials said hundreds of their supporters have been detained across the country since Saturday as protests have been reported in several other towns. Some crude bombs have exploded in Dhaka and other parts of the country, according to reports.

Hasina and Zia, both related to former national leaders, have nursed a long and bitter rivalry, and have dominated politics in Bangladesh for more than two decades.

 

Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2015, 13:17
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