Bangladesh roadblock protest sparks clashes

  • Published
Protest in the Kachpur area, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, 9 DecImage source, AP
Image caption,
Thousands of police have been deployed and dozens of activists were taken into custody

Violent clashes have erupted in Bangladesh as protesters staged a nationwide blockade of roads to press for an independent body to oversee next year's election.

At least two people were killed and scores hurt as rival groups clashed. Dozens of vehicles were torched.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas, and protesters threw petrol bombs.

The government last year abolished the system under which caretaker officials take charge ahead of elections.

The system set up an independent administration at the end of a government's term to try to ensure elections were conducted in an impartial manner.

The government of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says it abolished the system following a court order and has no intention of reversing it.

The main opposition Bangladesh National Party - led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia - called for the blockade to try to force the government to restore the system.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Electoral campaigns have often sparked violent clashes in Bangladesh

The BBC's Dhaka correspondent, Anbarasan Ethirajan, says the northern Gabtoli area of Dhaka was turned into a battleground, with clashes between opposition and pro-government supporters.

Thousands of police have been deployed and dozens of activists were taken into custody.

Our correspondent says many people remained indoors, with schools closed and businesses disrupted.

Deputy police commissioner Imtiaz Ahmed told Agence France-Presse news agency: "We allowed peaceful protests. But once they started attacking cars and buses and throwing cocktail bombs, we used non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them."

Politics in Bangladesh has been dominated by Ms Hasina and Ms Zia for decades.

In the past, their electoral campaigns have sparked violent clashes and on occasions have prompted military intervention.