Bangladeshi police fired live rounds at protesters on Monday in renewed clashes that killed two people, as a fresh nationwide strike got under way to force the prime minister to quit, officials said.
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, some 300 kilometres north of the capital Dhaka.
“Police first fired from shotguns to disperse the warring supporters. Later they opened fire from rifles,” district administrator Habibur Rahman said.
A doctor at Patgram hospital said an opposition protester had died from bullet injuries and 16 other people were injured in the clashes.
The clashes were among sporadic violence throughout the country at the start of another three-day strike called by the BNP and its Islamist allies, in the latest effort to press Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign ahead of January elections.
At least 22 people have now been killed since the opposition began its push, including strikes and street protests, last month to force Hasina to let an interim administration organise the elections.
In opposition protests late Sunday ahead of the strike, activists threw home-made bombs in the industrial district of Savar outside the capital, killing a rickshaw passenger.
“Two passengers were hit by a petrol bomb thrown by strike supporters on Sunday night. One of them died this morning,” a local police inspector said.
Schools, shops and private offices were closed on Monday in the capital, where thousands of extra police and paramilitary border guards were on patrol, a police spokesman said.
Long-distance bus and lorry services ground to a halt, while transport deliveries to the main ports were suspended, affecting shipments of locally made garments, the mainstay of Bangladesh’s economy.
At a rally in the capital on Sunday, Hasina repeated her offer of further talks with the opposition to try to defuse the crisis, but said the BNP must first call off the strike.
The BNP has branded the current government “illegal” and says that under the law, a neutral caretaker government must be set up three months before the next elections.
Hasina has scrapped the caretaker system and instead proposed an all-party interim government led by herself to oversee the polls.