DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Three people died and scores of others were injured as violence raged across Bangladesh on Tuesday, the last day of a three-day strike called by opposition activists to pressure the prime minister to resign.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the country's main business body, expressed concern over the violence, in which at least 18 people have died since the weekend, and urged the government and opposition to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Police opened fire Tuesday on government and opposition supporters as they clashed in the southwestern district of Magura, killing an opposition backer, the Daily Star newspaper and TV stations reported.
Later in the day, two supporters of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party died when police fired at them in Kutubdia in the southern coastal district of Cox's Bazar, local government administrator Ruhul Amin said.
Amin said the opposition supporters attacked police, who then retaliated.
Homemade bombs exploded in several parts of the country, including the capital, where a police official was hurt, said Sheikh Maruf Hasan, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official.
Scores more have been injured across the country since Sunday, when the decades-old rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia flared anew as the nationwide strike closed down businesses and roads, and government opponents clashed with police and ruling party supporters.
Hasina called Zia on Saturday to appeal to her not to enforce the planned strike. It was believed to be the first time the political rivals have had a conversation in at least a decade.
Despite the rare appeal, Zia refused to call off the strike, which was due to end Tuesday.
Zia wants to force Hasina's government to quit so a caretaker administration can oversee an election scheduled to be held by early next year.
The opposition says the government is not capable of holding a credible vote and has threatened to boycott the election unless a caretaker government is appointed from outside the main political parties.
Hasina has proposed forming a caretaker government from the ruling and opposition parties to supervise the vote.
Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy, has been alternately ruled by Hasina and Zia since 1991, but peaceful transfers of power have remained a major challenge.
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