17 killed in election violence across countryNew Age Online
At least 17 people were killed and scores of others injured as law enforcers opened fire on opposition activists while trying to attack polling centres in different areas in the country during elections on Sunday.
The authorities have suspended polling in at least 150 centres across the country following violence.
The 10th national elections began at 8:00am Sunday in 147 constituencies across the country amid sporadic violence. The BNP-led 18-party alliance boycotted and vowed to resist the elections.
In Rangpur, two Shibir activists were killed at Dewti village in Parul union under Pirgachha upazila early Sunday as police fired shots at a group of Shibir activists after they looted ballot boxes from Dewti School and College center and tried to set fire on it.
Mokbul Hossain, officer-in-charge of Pirgachha police station, said police intercepted the group soon after they looted the ballot boxes and tried to set fire on the centre at 3:00am. Two of the activists, Sirazul Islam Siraj, 24, and Hadiuzzaman Hadi, 25 died on the spot.
In Nilphamari, two Jamaat-Shibir activists were killed in clashes with police at two polling centres under Dimla and Jaldhaka upazilas.
Hundreds of Jamaat-Shibir activists tried to snatch election materials and torch polling booths in Bepari Tala Aleem Madrassah polling center of Khalisa Chapani union under Dimla upazila at about 2:30am, said Azim Uddin, officer-in-charge of Dimla police.
Police intervened and fired several rounds of bullets leaving Jahangir Alam, 32, dead on the spot, the OC said.
In another incident, anti-election activists attacked Balapara Kachari Girls High School center under Koimari union of Jaldhaka upazila at around 10:00am prompting police to fire several rounds of shots leaving Momtaz Uddin dead on the spot, said Moniruzzaman, officer-in-charge of Jaldhaka thana.
In Feni, two local leaders of BNP were killed while 12 others including two policemen were injured in a clash between police and anti-election activists.
The deceased were Jamshed Alam and Md Shahid Ullah, leaders of the local Juba Dal and Chhatra Dal.
Shamsul Alam Sarker, assistant police superintendent of Feni, said a group of anti-polls activists swooped on the Uttar Charchandia Govt Primary School polling centre under Sonagazi upazila at about 10:00am and blasted several crude bombs there. Police fired several rounds of shots to disperse the activists leaving 12 people injured, six of them received bullet wounds. Two of the injured were policemen.
In Thakurgaon, three People died after being shot by police in clashes between the law enforcers and the anti-election activists.
The deceased were Joynal, 30, and Harun, 40, and Abu Hanif, 25. They all were residents of sadar upazila.
Witnesses said the anti-election activists approached with sharp weapons to Basudebpur Govt Primary School polling centre under sadar upazila at about 12:00pm. They pelted brickbats at the police from almost all the sides.
Police fired gunshots that left Harun dead on the spot.
Joynal was rushed to Thakurgaon Sadar Hospital where the duty doctor declared him dead.
In another incident, Abu Hanif was killed during a clash with police and anti-election activists.
Police said the anti-election supporters launched an attack with sharp weapons on Garea High School centre in Garea union under the upazila at about 2:00pm. They hurled brick chips at police prompting them to fire several rounds of bullets.
The clash left Hanif dead on the spot, our correspondent reported.
In Lakshmipur, a Shibir activist, Rubel, was killed and two others injured when police fired shots at the anti-election activists from opposition BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami when they tried to occupy the Machhimpur High School polling centre in No 5 Chandipur union under Ramganj.
In Chittagong, a Shibir activist was killed and 10 others including two policemen were injured in a clash between police and anti-election activists.
The deceased was Anamul Haque, 26, a resident of Lohagra upazila.
Md Shajahan, officer-in-charge of Lohagara police, said a group of Shibir activists carried out an attack on Bhobanipur polling centre at about 3:30pm to snatch away the ballot boxes.
Police fired several rounds of bullets to disperse them, the OC said.
The clash left Anamul dead on the spot and 10 others injured including two policemen, he added.
UNB adds: In Dinajpur, three people, including an Ansar member and a BNP leader, were killed in separate incidents of election violence.
In Gaibandha, a Jamaat activist, Sahabul, was killed in a mass beating in Sundarganj upazila.
In Naogaon, a BNP activist was gunned down by police outside a polling centre at Chakdebiram village in Manda upazila under Naogaon-4 constituency at noon.
The deceased was identified as Babul Hossain, 28, son of Nazar Ali of the village.
In Jessore, a Jamaat activist, Matiur Rahman, 20, was killed in police firing at Bajitpur village in Monirampur upazila at noon.
No untoward incident was reported so far during the elections in eight constituencies in the capital Dhaka.
AFP adds: The Awami League government, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of orchestrating the violence, and has kept its leader under de facto house arrest while she fumes over what is effectively a one-party contest.
Some of the worst violence was in the northern district of Bogra, which is a BNP stronghold.
"We've seen thousands of protestors attack polling booths and our personnel at a number of locations with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs," Bogra's police chief Syed Abu Sayem told AFP.
"So far, they have set fire to 15 polling booths and attacked a police station... The situation is extremely volatile."
There were similar reports in the northern Rangpur district, where police said they had shot one person dead as protesters snatched stacks of ballot papers.
With the opposition trying to enforce a general strike as part of a strategy to wreck the polls, officials admit turnout could be worse than the previous low of 26 percent in a rigged 1996 election.
AFP correspondents in the capital Dhaka said there was no sign of queues outside the polling stations when they opened.
Little Enthusiasm: The few voters who did cast their ballots were doing so with little enthusiasm, and newspapers said Hasina should not regard the result as a mandate.
"Voting is a right, I am exercising that right, but there is no sense of celebration today," said Nurul Islam, as he voted in Mirpur, a Dhaka suburb.
With the opposition charging that the election lacks all credibility, analysts warn it will likely fuel violence in a country that has already seen its bloodiest year of political unrest since Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan in 1971.
The former East Pakistan is the world's eighth most populous nation but also one of the poorest in Asia, and more turmoil will undermine efforts to improve the lot of its population of 154 million -- third of whom live below the poverty line.
Zia says the polls cannot be fair as long as they are overseen by Hasina, calling instead for them to be organised by a neutral caretaker government.
Both women, who have a notoriously poisonous relationship, blame each others' supporters for the violence which has capped a year of political unrest.
A local rights group says more than 500 people have been killed since January 2013, a toll that includes victims of clashes between the security forces and Islamists angered by the conviction of some of their leaders for war crimes dating back to the 1971 conflict.
The main Islamist party has been banned by the courts from taking part in the election, and its leaders are either in detention or have gone into hiding.
Alarmed by the violence, the United States, European Union and Commonwealth all declined to send election observers.
The mass-selling Daily Star called it "a one-sided general election that is unlikely to end the present political crisis".
The Dhaka Tribune said "the results cannot and should not be viewed as a mandate to rule for a full term".
Bangladesh has been plagued by political instability since independence, with nearly 20 coups since 1975.
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