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Originally published Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 2:50 AM

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1 dead in Bangladesh opposition shutdown

Opposition supporters clashed with pro-government activists in Bangladesh, leaving one man dead amid reports of explosions of bombs and a train derailment blamed on the opposition during a nationwide general strike on Tuesday.

Associated Press

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DHAKA, Bangladesh —

Opposition supporters clashed with pro-government activists in Bangladesh, leaving one man dead amid reports of explosions of bombs and a train derailment blamed on the opposition during a nationwide general strike on Tuesday.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or BNP, and its 17 other allies were enforcing the shutdown to try to secure release of 154 leaders and activists detained this month.

The group enforced a similar shutdown across the South Asian country Monday, and a similar shutdown is expected in Dhaka, the capital, on Thursday.

Those detained are facing charges of attacking police and creating chaos during an anti-government rally that ended abruptly amid explosions and clashes on March 11.

In Dhaka, opposition activists on Tuesday detonated crude bombs and vandalized vehicles, said bdnews24.com agency and Ekattor TV station.

Railway official Abul Kalam Azad said a train derailed early Tuesday in northeastern Moulvibazar district after suspected opposition activists removed plates from the track. He said 15 passengers were slightly injured, while the derailment forced authorities to suspend operations in the region.

A student front leader of the ruling Awami League bled to death after being hit with sharp weapons in fighting with opposition supporters in northern Tangail district, said local police chief Monir Hossain.

In northwestern district of Rajshahi, activists from Jamaat-e-Islami, a main ally of the main opposition BNP, clashed with police, leaving scores injured. At least 35 people were injured in two clashes in the area while more than 40 homemade bombs exploded, bdnews24.com agency reported, quoting police officials.

United News of Bangladesh agency reported at least 40 opposition activists were arrested in Rajshahi.

Explosions of crude bombs were also reported in parts of Dhaka, where schools and most businesses were closed Tuesday amid tight security with thousands of officers patrolling the streets. Traffic was thin on the usually-clogged streets.

Bangladesh's rough political world has become increasingly violent in recent months. The opposition alliance is demanding restoration of a caretaker government to oversee elections expected to be held by early next year.

Jamaat-e-Islami also wants to halt the trials of several opposition politicians accused of crimes stemming from the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated the trials in 2010 and three verdicts have been handed down. Ten of the defendants convicted or on trial are from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamic party, while two others belong to the BNP, headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The tribunal sentenced a senior Jamaat-e-Islami party leader to death last month, a decision that sparked violent clashes between opposition activists and police that left at least 70 people dead. The opposition says the trials are politically motivated. Authorities deny that.

Zia is expected to attend a meeting with her party's senior policymakers later Tuesday to decide their next protest plans. She recently indicated that she wanted to continue the street protests rather than hold discussions with the government.

The United Nations, the United States, Canada and influential European countries have urged the politicians to resolve disputes through dialogue.

The government says it is open to talks, but Zia's party says the government wants to use any talks to defuse the opposition movement.

Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy, has experienced political unrest since democracy was restored in 1990 after a nine-year rule by former military dictator and President H.M. Ershad. Zia and Hasina have alternated office as prime ministers since then.

Enforcing shutdowns, which often turn violent, is a common tactic by the opposition to try to embarrass the government.

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