Two people belonging to the student wing of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- the main opposition party in Bangladesh -- were shot dead Monday during clashes with members of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, according to media reports. The clashes reportedly broke out during protests by members of the BNP on the first anniversary of general elections held in the country last year.
The two men, identified as Rakib Hossain and Raihan Ali Rana, were reportedly killed when members of the BNP traded fire with Awami League supporters in the northern town of Natore, about 136 miles from the capital city of Dhaka, according to media reports. The Khaleda Zia-led BNP had, along with 20 other opposition parties, boycotted last year’s elections, reportedly calling them a “scandalous farce.” According to Agence France-Presse, 15 people were also injured in the clashes Monday.
Zia's party, in the run-up to the elections, had demanded that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been in power since 2009, quit and allow a neutral and impartial observer to oversee the elections -- a demand that was rejected by Hasina’s party, which won a landslide victory. The opposition parties in the country had decided to mark Jan. 5 as “democracy killing day,” resulting in fierce clashes in several towns across the country early on Monday, according to a report by The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper.
The deaths of the two opposition members comes even as their leader Zia remains confined to her office, where she has reportedly been held by Bangladesh police since Saturday night. While the police denied detaining her and stated that her security had been “enhanced” in anticipation of violence ahead of the first anniversary of the controversial elections, BNP officials claimed that she had been locked inside her office by police.
“She has been confined in her office. Police have cordoned off the area and barricaded the road. She wanted to see a sick party colleague around midnight, but they did not let her out,” SR Shimul Biswas, Zia’s aide, told Agence France-Presse on Sunday.
“She has urged people to join a mass rally today. She would also try to join the protest,” Maruf Kamal Khan, Zia's spokesperson, reportedly said Monday.