3 killed as opposition enforces 60-hour strike in Bangladesh

Dhaka: Three people were killed and several injured in clashes that erupted across Bangladesh today as the main opposition BNP and its rightwing allies enforced a 60-hour nationwide strike demanding an amended electoral system for next year's general election.
 
Police said opposition activists hacked to death a ruling Awami League supporter in western Jessore while a BNP worker was killed in shootout with police in neighbouring Faridpur.
 
The third death occurred in Pabna as activists of ruling Awami League allegedly opened fire on BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami men in Ishwardi upazila, the Daily Star reported.
 
Arson and blasts in the capital Dhaka and other cities marked the initial hours of the shutdown.
 
"Some 11 vehicles were set on fire at different parts of the (Dhaka) city since the morning," a police spokesman said while anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) enforced intensified vigil in the capital and other major cities.
 
Earlier, in an apparent pre-strike action suspected opposition activists exploded bombs in front of houses of several ministers, the chief election commissioner and two TV channels injuring several including two journalists.
 
Doctors said one of the journalists was struggling for life with critical wounds at the military hospital in Dhaka.
 
The strike came as the overnight telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chief Khaleda Zia could make little headway in easing tensions.
 
Hasina had yesterday reached out to her arch-rival Zia, a day after BNP supporters staged violent protests across the country to push their demand for setting up an interim government comprising non-political figures ahead of polls.
 
"We will hold talks but cannot withdraw the hartal," Zia's aide Maruf Kamal Sohel quoted her as telling the premier.
 
Hasina has proposed the formation of a caretaker government with representatives of all political parties, but this has been rejected by Zia.
 
BNP leaders, however, hinted that their main concern was who would head the poll-time government as they fear the elections with Hasina as premier would not be credible.
 
The government is yet to formally respond to the opposition's proposal but the premier and her party leaders called Zia's proposition "impractical".