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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Three die in Bangladesh clashes
Soldiers at government house
Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed
At least three people have been killed in Bangladesh, in clashes between government and opposition activists.

The violence erupted as parliament was dissolved to pave the way for general elections.

The deaths were reported as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made her final speech to parliament.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina: Five years in power
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the violence as an opposition rally ended late on Friday.

Reports said opposition activists tried to destroy an arch with a boat - an election symbol of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League - in the Purana Paltan area of Dhaka.

The opposition is planning another rally on Saturday.

Sheikh Hasina is the first democratically-elected leader in Bangladesh's 30-year history to complete a full term in government.

Caretaker government

Earlier on Friday pro-government and opposition supporters fought each other in several parts of the country, using guns and home-made bombs.

BNP leader Sheikh Khalida Zia
Sheikh Khalida Zia is demanding a caretaker government immediately
Police had been drafted onto the streets of the capital, Dhaka, following calls by the opposition leader Begum Khalida Zia, for demonstrations to celebrate the end to what she called Sheikh Hasina's autocratic rule.

Fresh elections for a new government are due in October, but Begum Khalida has demanded that Bangladeshi President Shahabuddin Ahmed install a caretaker government immediately.

Volatile period

Many Dhaka residents were reported to have stayed indoors fearing violence.

During Sheikh Hasina's tenure the country has veered from one industrial strike to another while parliament - boycotted by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) - has in effect ceased to function.

Many of the strikes over the past five years were organised by the BNP as part of its campaign to force Sheikh Hasina relinquish power.

Analysts say Bangladesh is now entering a volatile period.

The constitution states that before an election, the prime minister should hand over power to a caretaker administration.

The caretaker government is responsible for ensuring the election is free and fair.

See also:

29 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh premier sets handover date
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
US condemns Bangladesh violence
17 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh hunts party office bombers
01 Apr 01 | South Asia
Violence hits Bangladesh
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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