One killed as Bangladesh opposition calls strike

DHAKA - Bangladesh opposition activists clashed with police during a nationwide strike Monday, leaving one woman dead and several people injured, as tensions grew ahead of the first anniversary of controversial elections.

Police said a female school teacher succumbed to her injuries after she was hit on the head by a rock thrown by an opposition protester in the coastal district of Noakhali.

"She was declared dead after being brought to a hospital," local police chief Anwar Ali told AFP.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and 19 allies, including Islamist outfits, called the strike to protest a crackdown against their leaders and supporters by the security forces.

BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed told AFP at least 400 party officials and activists have been arrested since Wednesday to thwart protests to mark the first anniversary of the January 5 elections that the party boycotted.

A senior member of BNP's main decision-making body and the head of its youth wing are among those to have been arrested while other officials have gone into hiding.

The opposition boycott of the polls meant there was no contest in the majority of the parliamentary seats, allowing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party to retain power by a landslide.

Hasina has ruled out any election before the end of her new term in 2019.

The streets in the capital was largely deserted during Monday's strike. Offices and schools were closed and there were buses or lorries on national highways.

In Dhaka four people were injured, including a young man who was hit by shotgun pellet after police fired shotguns and tear gas to disperse opposition protesters, police inspector Shahab Uddin told AFP.

"Three policemen were also injured as the protesters attacked us with cocktail bombs. They have been taken to a police hospital," he added.

Three people also suffered burns injuries and two buses were torched in violence on Sunday night, police said.