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Eight killed in Bangladesh clashes

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Eight people were killed in clashes across Bangladesh during a strike called by the opposition to protest at arrangements for January 5 general elections.

Protesters vandalised vehicles, set fire to local election offices, attacked trains and uprooted railway tracks on the first day of a 48-hour strike, according to police and media reports on Tuesday.

More than 200 people were injured in the clashes.

The strike was called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance of former prime minister Khaleda Zia, after the government refused her request for a neutral caretaker government to oversee the polls.

BNP supporters uprooted railway tracks, cutting links to the capital Dhaka, and attacked a station in Lalmonirhat district, 390 kilometres north-west of Dhaka, railway officer Sardar Sahadat Ali said.

Train services between Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong remained suspended, private broadcaster Somoy Television reported.

Intercity buses were also off the roads.

A bystander was killed when police clashed with BNP supporters in the northern district of Sirajganj, police officer Moktar Hossain said.

A soldier from the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh force and a rickshaw peddler were killed in south-eastern Comilla district, where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

An auto-rickshaw driver died in hospital after he was hit on the head by a stone in neighbouring Feni district. Protesters allegedly lynched two ruling party supporters in Satkhira district, about 300 kilometres south-west of Dhaka. An opposition activist was killed in clashes in northern Bogra district.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week proposed an interim government including all parties for the duration of the elections, but Zia refused to participate and called the strike.

Violence during opposition-led strikes has claimed 30 lives in the past month alone.

Bangladesh held its last general election in 2008, nearly two years after a military-backed government took over following political turmoil.