Violent clashes with the police broke out Saturday in Bangladesh during a mass demonstration by opponents of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, causing the death of a police officer and a demonstrator and leaving many injured.
More than 100,000 supporters of the country's two main opposition parties, according to police, took part in banned rallies in the capital Dhaka to demand the resignation of Sheikh Hasina and make way for a neutral government to oversee the next elections.
Police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse the rallies organized by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the country's largest Islamist party. country, Jamaat-e-Islami, noted AFP journalists.
The demonstrators responded by throwing stones and bricks in several streets of the capital. A police officer was killed, “hit in the head by opposition activists” and more than a hundred others were injured, said Faruk Hossain, spokesperson for the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
The BNP reported one protester killed. “Shamim Molla, one of the leaders of the Young Guard, was shot and killed by the police,” party spokesperson Sayrul Kabir Khan told AFP.
Protesters from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (opposition) demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on October 28, 2023 © AFP – Munir UZ ZAMAN
At least 20 people were injured by rubber bullets and taken to the country's main hospital, the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, police inspector Bacchu Mia told AFP.
The BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami have called for a national strike on Sunday to protest against the violence of the police.
– Accusations of corruption –
This day of Saturday marks a new stage in protests ahead of general elections scheduled for the end of January.
Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the country's first president, has been in power for fifteen years and has seen her country experience rapid economic growth that has allowed it to overtake neighboring India in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. But his government is accused of corruption and human rights violations.
For months, the opposition, in full rebirth, has been organizing demonstrations to assert its demands, although the leader is ill of the BNP, Khaleda Zia, twice Prime Minister and old enemy of Ms. Hasina, is placed under house arrest after being convicted of corruption.
Demonstration of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (opposition), in Dhaka on October 28, 2023 © AFP – Munir uz zaman
On Saturday, at least 100,000 people joined the BNP rally and up to 25,000 that of the Jamaat , according to police.
At least 10,000 police officers had been deployed according to the authorities. But they clashed with hundreds of demonstrators in the Kakrail district, in front of the city's largest Catholic church.
Images broadcast live on the BNP Facebook page showed thousands of people run for shelter, as stun grenades rang out against a backdrop of plumes of black smoke.
On Saturday in Dhaka, demonstrators flocked despite checkpoints, even boarding crowded trains.
– “Vote thief” –
“Vote thief, vote thief, Sheikh Hasina vote thief,” chanted the crowd at the BNP demonstration.
“We demand the immediate resignation of the Hasina government (…) and the establishment of real voting rights,” explained Sekandar Badsha, a 24-year-old activist from Chittagong (South).
BNP spokesperson Zahir Uddin Swapan told AFP that “the police and armed cadres of the ruling party (had) attacked our peaceful gathering” and claimed that more than a million people had taken part in the demonstration.
Demonstrators from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (opposition), in Dhaka on October 28, 2023 © AFP – Munir UZ ZAMAN
This mobilization constitutes a “last call” to the voluntary resignation of Ms. Hasina, added the spokesperson. The party has otherwise threatened to call strikes and blockades.
Several Western governments and human rights groups have expressed concern about the political climate in this country of some 170 million inhabitants.
The United States has condemned the clashes on Saturday and called for “calm and restraint on all sides”, brandishing the threat of visa restrictions.
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