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Four killed in Bangladesh clashes between police, protesters

From Farid Ahmed, For CNN
January 30, 2012 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Opposition parties called for anti-government rallies across the country
  • The government banned rallies in six major cities
  • Clashes elsewhere resulted in four deaths
  • Protesters want an independent government to oversee general elections

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Authorities confirmed four deaths Sunday following violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, had called for anti-government rallies across the country but the government slapped a ban on all gatherings in the capital, Dhaka, and five other cities including Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal.

In protests elsewhere, police confirmed two deaths in Chandpur district and two in Laxmipur district after clashes with demonstrations, who demanded an independent caretaker government to oversee general elections in two years. The government has rejected that demand.

The inspector general of Bangladesh police, Hassan Mahmood Khandker, said that he had ordered an investigation into the deadly clashes in Chandpur and Laxmipur.

"We'll see if there is any negligence on part of the police," he said.

Police authorities said that they imposed the ban on rallies in major cities to avoid confrontations as both the ruling Awami League party and the opposition parties had announced rallies on Sunday.

Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, also chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, earlier this month asked party members to take to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

"The elections need to be held under an independent caretaker government... the elections will be rigged if it's held under any political government," said Zia, the arch rival of present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

She said the government had failed to run the country properly and criticized the government foreign policy saying the ruling Awami League government had become "subservient towards India."

Police said initially they had used clubs to disperse the protesters, but as mobs turned violent attacking policemen, they fired bullets and tear gas shells.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party claimed several hundreds of its activists were injured and many more were detained in different parts of the country.

"The ruling party itself is creating anarchy in the country by using police to foil (the) opposition's peaceful democratic program," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

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