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Bangladesh pre-election violence

January 4, 2014

Dozens of polling booths have been torched in Bangladesh on the eve of general elections the opposition has condemned as "farcical." Some 150 people have so far died in violence related to the controversial polls.


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Opposition activists have burnt down at least 30 polling stations in Bangladesh ahead of the country's general elections on Sunday.

The elections have been boycotted by major opposition parties such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which called a 48-hour general strike after the government refused to accede to its demand to postpone the elections and install a neutral caretaker administration to oversee them.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia has appealed to voters to also "completely boycott" elections that she termed "a scandalous farce," and accused the government of placing her under house arrest. Her aides say she has been detained in her Dhaka home for nearly a week, though the government denies this.

The Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Zia's bitter rival for the past two decades, seems almost certain to win what is a virtually a one-party election.

Ongoing violence

In recent weeks, much of the capital, Dhaka, has been cut off from the rest of the country, with opposition activists blockading roads, train lines and waterways. Vehicles of motorists who defy the frequent strikes have also been torched.

Around 50,000 troops have been deployed across the country to try and contain the unrest. Police say 1,200 opposition activists have been detained, but opposition parties say the number of arrests is much higher than that.

In the latest violence, police said an opposition activist in the northern district of Lalmonirhat was killed in a clash with Awami League supporters on Saturday morning. So far, some 150 people are thought to have been killed since the election date was set in October.

The United States,the European Union, and the British Commonwealth have all refused to send observers to the election, calling its legitimacy further into question.

tj/bk (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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