Deadly violence has erupted during local elections in Bangladesh, leaving at least 13 people dead this week. Analysts said the mayhem shows the country’s democracy is struggling in the face of Islamist extremism and a divisive debate over how to deal with the legacy of its 1971 civil war. The election violence Tuesday night — including vicious political clashes between rival parties as well as security forces opening fire on rioters — was considered unusual for the impoverished South Asian nation. While attacks have accompanied national elections in the past, village-level polls have usually been peaceful. But with the two main political parties disagreeing over whether, and how, to punish war crimes committed during the country’s war of independence from Pakistan, public discourse has become more extreme, analysts said. Attacks carried out by Islamist extremists have led the secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to crack down with an increasingly heavy hand as it aims to reassure the international community about Bangladeshi security.
After polling booths closed Tuesday night in the southern Pirojpur district, a 700-strong mob took a polling officer hostage while trying to snatch ballot boxes, local police superintendent Walid Hossain said.
Security officials including paramilitary border guards opened fire on the mob, under orders from a local magistrate, Hossain said. At least five ruling-party supporters were killed while scores of others were injured, he said.