Electoral reform in Bangladesh sparks street violence

One demonstrator was killed when a police van ran him over in Bangladesh's capital on Monday, a news report said, as riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up thousands of stone-throwing protesters who demanded electoral reform.

Several people were also injured in violence near a five-star hotel in central Dhaka, according to an Associated Press correspondent at the scene. Clashes occurred on the second day of an indefinite strike that crippled public transportation across Bangladesh.

The shut down was launched Sunday by a 14-party political alliance demanding the resignation of election officials despite a police ban on such protests.

Slogan-chanting activists rallied on the streets of Dhaka and halted public transportation except for tricycle pedicabs.

Baton-wielding police clashed with about 5,000 demonstrators after they started throwing stones at them and smashed several vehicles for defying the strike outside Dhaka's Sonargaon Hotel, witnesses said.

An unidentified man was killed when a police van chasing demonstrators ran him over, United News of Bangladesh news agency reported. Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

The violence broke out just after President Iajuddin Ahmed drove through the street to his downtown office.

Demonstrators also converged on highways leading in and out of the capital, cutting off Dhaka from the rest of the country, ATN Bangla TV station reported.

On Sunday, protesters set fire to a train and attacked public transport workers who defied the strike call.

One man was killed in Sunday's violence and authorities deployed 15,000 security personnel in Dhaka.

The alliance, led by the main opposition Awami League party, said the caretaker government headed by Ahmed has failed to take steps to ensure January elections will be free and fair.

The alliance has called for the removal of Chief Election Commissioner M.A. Aziz and his three deputies, accusing them of favoring former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's four-party coalition. Aziz denies the allegations and has refused to resign, the AP reports. 

Several private television stations reported Sunday that the interim government planned to deploy the army to quell any unrest. The government denied the reports.

"No such situation to deploy the army has arisen. A decision to deploy the army has not yet been taken," a Home Ministry statement said late Sunday.

A three-wheel taxi overturned while being chased by stone-throwing demonstrators on Sunday on the outskirts of Dhaka, the United News of Bangladesh news agency reported. A passenger was hurt and later died of his injuries.

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