One dead as 100,000 opposition supporters rally in Bangladesh

One dead as 100,000 opposition supporters rally in Bangladesh

DHAKA - More than 100,000 opposition activists rallied in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Friday to demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quit and order polls under a caretaker government.

Police said an opposition activist was killed and several others were injured by bullets in the resort district of Cox's Bazaar in southern Bangladesh after border guards opened fire at several thousand supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

"The border guards opened fire after the BNP activists defied a ban on rallies and attacked the forces," Cox's Bazaar district deputy police chief Babul Akter told AFP. "One person was killed and a few more were hit by bullets."

The clashes occurred as the BNP and its Islamists allies called nationwide mass protests to force Hasina to resign ahead of the January 2014 elections and set up a technocrat-led caretaker government to oversee the polls.

The BNP leader Khaleda Zia addressed a rally of over 100,000 supporters at a national memorial in central Dhaka, renewing her threat to boycott the polls and setting Hasina a new Sunday deadline to hold a dialogue on her demand for a caretaker government.

"There will be no election under Hasina. We won't allow any one-party election. The election must include all parties and be conducted by a neutral caretaker government," Zia told the crowd, announcing a nationwide strike for Sunday to Tuesday to press her demands.

Local Dhaka police chief Sirajul Islam put the number of the crowd at the rally at "over 100,000". Witnesses and BNP officials said the figure was double.

Tensions have been rising in Bangladesh since Hasina's ruling Awami League party rejected an October 24 deadline set by the BNP for accepting its demands. The Awami League instead called on its activists to take to the streets to face down the opposition.

Zia, who has twice served as premier, branded the government "illegal" as of Friday, citing a legal provision that requires a neutral caretaker government to be set up three months before elections slated for January 2014.

But the ruling Awami League abolished the provision in 2011, handing the job of overseeing polls to a reformed Election Commission.

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