DHAKA: Two people were shot dead as officers opened fire during clashes with thousands of Bangladeshi opposition supporters amid escalating protests against elections slated for January, police said Saturday.
One demonstrator was shot dead by officers Saturday and another died late Friday as police used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters.
Police announced the latest deaths as the 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) launched a new nationwide blockade of roads, rail and waterways.
Anti-poll violence has killed 20 people since Monday, bringing the death toll to 50 since late October when the government announced that the general elections would be held January 5.
Clashes erupted in the western town of Kotchandpur at the start of the opposition's new transport blockade Saturday.
Four police vans came under attacks from at least 1,000 supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, a key BNP ally, police said.
“We first fired rubber bullets to disperse Jamaat supporters who attacked us with homemade bombs and rocks,” deputy police chief of the region Zahidul Islam told AFP.
“When it became a 'do-or-die situation', we fired rifles that left one Jamaat supporter dead,” Islam said, adding one police officer was injured by a small bomb.
The other young man who died in the southern coastal town of Chokoria Friday was shot in clashes between 5,000 BNP supporters and police and ruling party activists, police said.
“He died of bullet wounds,” district deputy police chief Mohammad Khalequzzaman told AFP, but he denied that police had fired the shots.
Sometimes demonstrators are killed by rival protesters firing weapons.
Across the country, bus and truck transport along with train and ferry services virtually ground to a halt. Offices closed and prices of food and other commodities rocketed.
The BNP and its Islamist allies are demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign and make way for elections under a neutral caretaker government.
Hasina has rejected their demand and is sticking to her January 5 poll plans.
She scrapped the caretaker system in 2011, arguing it could lead to military takeover in a country which has seen at least 19 coups since 1975.