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Riots kill 10, Dhaka in limbo
A Jamat-e-Islami supporter hurls stones at Awami League activists during a clash in Dhaka on Saturday. (Reuters)

Dhaka, Oct. 28 (Reuters): Fierce political rioting in Bangladesh killed at least 10 people and wounded about 500 today after the man nominated as caretaker leader withdrew just hours before he was due to take the oath of office.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s five-year mandate ended yesterday. Former supreme court chief justice K.M. Hasan was to have been sworn in as head of a caretaker government today, ahead of a national election due in January.

Street battles between supporters of rival political parties which erupted yesterday have killed 16 people in the last two days, police and hospitals said. “We are facing a very volatile and unpredictable situation,” a police officer said. “The uncertainties are lingering and tension deepening.”

In a statement issued to local media, Hasan said he had decided to withdraw because major political parties had failed to agree on his appointment.

“I was prepared to serve ... national interest, but the level of mistrust between the political parties has made my position untenable,” the statement said. “It is best I should stand aside rather than be a hurdle to the political process.”

Today, following the violence, Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed summoned political leaders to discuss the crisis.

Ahmed had proposed that he could stand in as the caretaker government chief, said Abdul Jalil, general secretary of the Opposition Awami League. “I discussed this with my party chief (Sheikh Hasina) and allies, and conveyed to the President that we do not accept his proposal,” Jalil said.

Instead, Ahmed will nominate an alternative caretaker leader by tomorrow evening, Jalil added.

Earlier, Khaleda told a rally in the capital that her party would accept whatever the President decided and that all other parties should agree to it. Street battles broke out between rival political activists last evening after Khaleda made her farewell address.

Protesters blocked highways, burned vehicles, and attacked offices of Khaleda’s BNP and the homes of some ministers, police and witnesses said. Political analysts said the protests were the most fierce since a popular uprising in 1990 that toppled military President, Hossain Mohammad Ershad.

Ten more people were killed today, five in Dhaka, two in eastern Narsingdi, one each in the southern port city of Chittagong, northern Kurigram and western Kushti .

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