DHAKA - Thousands of protesters firebombed polling stations and 15 people were killed as violence flared across Bangladesh Sunday during a walkover election boycotted by the opposition.
Police opened fire at protesters as they torched more than 200 polling stations and stole and burnt ballot papers in a bid to sabotage the poll.
Two of those killed were beaten to death while guarding polling stations in northern districts which bore the brunt of the violence.
"We've seen thousands of protesters attack polling booths and our personnel at a number of locations with petrol bombs," Syed Abu Sayem, police chief of the northern district of Bogra, told AFP.
"The situation is extremely volatile," he added after describing how thousands of ballot papers had been ceremoniously set on fire.
Most of the other victims were opposition activists shot by police, while a driver died of his injuries from a petrol bomb attack on his truck.
"We were forced to open fire after thousands of them attacked us with guns and small bombs," said Mokbul Hossain, police chief in the northern town of Parbatipur.
"It was a coordinated attack. They managed to seize some ballot papers and they tried to steal our weapons."
In the capital Dhaka, whose streets were largely empty apart from thousands of troops, police confirmed three petrol bombings of polling stations.
Tens of thousands of troops were deployed across the country after around 150 people had been killed in the build-up to the election, but they failed to stem the bloodshed.
The ruling Awami League has accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of orchestrating the violence and has kept its leader under de facto house arrest.