Bangladesh’s main Opposition leader was detained for questioning on Sunday, as clashes raged for a second day between the police and protesters demonstrating against the Prime Minister ahead of upcoming elections.
The police also made a series of raids on the homes of senior Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders, party spokesman Zahir Uddin Swapan said, adding that nearly 3,000 party activists and supporters had been detained in the past week.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Habibur Rahman said BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had been “detained for interrogation”.
Mr. Rahman said that Mr. Alamgir would be questioned over Saturday’s violence in which a police officer and a protester were killed, and at least 26 police ambulances were torched or damaged.
Mr. Alamgir, 75, the BNP’s secretary-general, has led the party since BNP chairwoman and two-time former Premier Khaleda Zia was arrested and jailed, and her son went into exile in Britain.
The resurgent Opposition has been mounting protests for months, despite their ailing leader Zia being effectively under house arrest after a conviction on corruption charges.
Saturday’s protests by the BNP and the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, were among the biggest this year, and marked a new phase in their campaigning with a general election due before the end of January.
More than 1,00,000 supporters of the two major opposition parties rallied on Saturday to demand Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down to allow a free and fair vote under a neutral government.
Protests descended into several hours of violent clashes in central Dhaka, and both the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami called for a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest the violence.
Security on Sunday was tight in the capital with thousands of members of security forces patrolling the streets.
But police in the northern district of Lalmonirhat said a youth leader in the ruling party was killed and several others injured during violent clashes between hundreds of opposition and ruling party supporters.
“He was rushed to a hospital where he died,” local police chief Ershadul Alam told AFP.
Police accused protesters of setting fire to a bus in Dhaka in the early hours of Sunday morning, after a blaze in which one person was killed and another badly burned.
Opposition activists and police clashed in several rural districts as well as the industrial city of Narayanganj, police said.
Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters after they burned tyres on a road and tried to vandalise vehicles, district police chief Golan Mostofa Russell told AFP.
One officer was injured, police said, while local media reported two BNP protesters were also injured.
Violence has sparked international concern, with the United States on Saturday calling for “calm and restraint on all sides”.
The European Union on Sunday said it was “vital that a peaceful way forward for participatory and peaceful elections is found”, it posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Ms. Hasina — the daughter of the country’s founding leader — has been in power for 15 years and overseen rapid economic growth. Bangladesh has overtaken neighbouring India in GDP per capita, but its inflation has risen and Hasina’s government is accused of corruption and human rights abuses.
Western governments have expressed concern over the political climate in Bangladesh, where Ms. Hasina’s ruling Awami League dominates the legislature and runs it virtually as a rubber stamp.
Her security forces are accused of detaining tens of thousands of opposition activists, killing hundreds in extrajudicial encounters and disappearing hundreds of leaders and supporters.