At least 10 people were killed after violence broke out between police and thousands of ruling party supporters at polling stations across Bangladesh. The clashes were reportedly prompted by fear of a loss for the party.
As voting began in the elections for more than 6,000 local Bangladeshi councils on Tuesday, clashes broke out in various corners of the country after thousands of ruling party supporters attacked police and border guards taking ballot boxes to the government headquarters. Much of the violence was seen in the southern coastal town of Mathabria.
"A magistrate ordered the shooting and officers fired at thousands of unruly people who attacked us with machetes, rocks and sticks," district police chief Walid Hossain told AFP news agency.
Three people died at the scene while two others died en route to a hospital. Another five people were also injured in the police shooting, Hossain said.
According to a second police official, all the victims were supporters of the ruling Awami League who had apparently attacked police out of fear of a local loss for their party.
Two people were also shot dead by security forces in the southeastern coastal town of Sabrang where supporters of a rebel ruling party candidate attempted to seize ballot boxes from the paramilitary forces, local police chief Kabir Hossain told AFP. Another three people died in other parts of Bangladesh.
Election fraud allegations
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said almost all the local council polls were marred by violence, rigging and fraud, including ballot-stuffing by the ruling party supporters.
The council elections, which are set to be held in six phases over the next four months, will not change the political landscape of the country, but a sweeping victory would strengthen Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's hold on power ahead of the general elections in 2019.
Local media reported on Wednesday that Hasina's Awami League had won more than two-thirds of the councils in the first round of polls.
ksb/jil (AFP, dpa)