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1 dead in Bangladesh opposition shutdown

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September 19, 2013 04:46 AM EST | AP

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladeshi police opened fire Thursday during clashes with supporters of the country's largest Islamic party who were enforcing a nationwide general strike, leaving one man dead, local media reported.

The clash in the western district of Meherpur began when the opposition supporters attacked security officials and critically stabbed a police official, the United News of Bangladesh reported. Up to 15 people, including 10 police officials, were injured in the violence.

Police could not be reached immediately for comment.

The members of the Jamaat-e-Islami party were enforcing a strike to protest Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling that Abdul Quader Mollah, a senior member of the party, should be executed for committing crimes against humanity during the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan. Party members say the verdict was politically motivated.

The first day of the strike on Wednesday saw clashes throughout the country that left one man dead after he was hit by rocks thrown by Jamaat-e-Islami party supporters.

Similar violence was reported Thursday as the protesters blocked roads, torched vehicles and clashed with police in several cities and towns. Public life was disrupted in Dhaka, where schools and most businesses remained closed and traffic on usually clogged streets was thin.

Jamaat-e-Islami is an ally of the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Jamaat-e-Islami shared power and had two posts in Zia's Cabinet in 2001-2006.

Hasina formed the special tribunal in 2010 to try war crimes suspects. Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war.

Zia termed the war crimes trial a "farce" and a means of weakening the opposition. The government disputes the allegations and says it won power in 2008 with an election pledge to prosecute war crimes suspects.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has raised questions about the impartiality of the tribunal though the government maintains that the trials are being conducted at an international standard.