Deadly clashes erupt in Bangladesh as opposition march gets underway

Deadly clashes erupt in Bangladesh as opposition march gets underway
Bangladeshi police detain a suspected activist of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamist militant organisation in Dhaka on December 27, 2013, as Hizb-ut Tahrir supporters attempted a demonstration march following Friday prayers. At least 25 supporters of the banned organisation were detained by police.

DHAKA - Bangladesh police fired water cannon and shotguns at opposition protesters in the capital Sunday, killing one person, at the start of a banned mass march aimed at thwarting next month's general election.

Hundreds of demonstrators, some throwing home-made bombs, battled police as they tried to gather at the opposition's headquarters and other places throughout Dhaka for the so-called "March for Democracy".

Some 11,000 police and elite Rapid Action Battalion officers were patrolling the capital to try to halt the march, Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP.

Police have detained more than 1,000 opposition supporters as a "preventive measure", while authorities have suspended Dhaka-bound bus, ferry and train services - virtually cutting off the city from the rest of the country.

Police fired water cannon at protesters outside the national press club, an AFP reporter said.

In Rampura neighbourhood, more than 200 demonstrators threw small bombs at police who responded with shotgun blasts during clashes there that left one person dead, a senior officer said.

"We fired shotguns to disperse the protesters who exploded dozens of small bombs," assistant police commissioner Nur Alam Siddiqui told AFP.

One protester who was bleeding was taken to hospital where he died, the officer said.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies have staged weeks of deadly protests, strikes and transport blockades to try to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign. Dozens of people have been killed.

The opposition says an election scheduled for January 5 must be held under a neutral caretaker government, as in the past, to prevent ballot-rigging.

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