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Bangla bleeds on handover-eve

Dhaka, Oct. 27 (Agencies): Violent clashes between the supporters of outgoing Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Opposition activists today left two people dead and another 100 injured, TV reports said.

The violence erupted immediately after Khaleda finished a televised speech ahead of her planned transfer of power to an interim administration, according to Channel-i TV station. The clashes were reported in Dhaka, and at least a dozen other towns across the country, the report said.

In eastern Brahmmanbaria, a leader of Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was killed when a bomb exploded near a group of supporters, ATN Bangla TV station reported.

Another ruling party activist was killed in clashes with Opposition supporters in northern Gazipur town, ATN Bangla said. The activists used guns, bombs and sticks during the clashes, the reports said. More than 20,000 security officials had been deployed in Dhaka ahead of Zia’s handover.

“I urge all, including Opposition parties, to maintain peace during the tenure of the caretaker government to ensure holding of a peaceful and credible election,” Khaleda said in a farewell address to the nation at the end of her five-year rule. Khaleda, who is seeking a third term, defended her track record, citing economic growth and success in tackling Islamist militants.

Khaleda, the wife of assassinated President Zia-ur Rahman, blamed the Opposition for the row over the caretaker administration and accused the parties of trying to disrupt the country’s development.

“Five years in office, we have seen increasing foreign investment that testifies the country’s growing image across the world,” she said.

The 14-party Opposition alliance led by Awami chief Sheikh Hasina has said it would cripple much of the country, including Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong, from tomorrow if Hasan takes over as caretaker.

Our correspondent Farid Hossain adds: Khaleda will formally hand over power tomorrow to an interim administration led by former supreme court chief justice K.M. Hasan. The caretaker government is constitutionally bound to hold new elections in 90 days.

But the 14-party Opposition alliance led by the Awami League has refused to accept Hasan as the caretaker head, citing his past association with the ruling party. “The Opposition movement will grow stronger from tomorrow if Justice Hasan takes over,” Tofayel Ahmed, a senior Awami League leader, said.

The Opposition urged President Iajuddin Ahmed not to swear in Hasan as caretaker chief “to save the country from a violent people's outburst.”. Instead, they asked Ahmed to install former chief justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury, who retired after Hasan, to head the administration. But the ruling party dismissed the Opposition threat and said the people of Bangladesh would defeat their attempts to destabilise the country.

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