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1 dead, scores hurt in Bangladesh violence

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JULHAS ALAM | October 29, 2013 07:32 AM EST | AP

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — One man died and scores of people were injured as violence raged across Bangladesh on Tuesday, the last day of a three-day strike called by opposition activists in a bid to pressure the prime minister to resign.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the country's business body, expressed concern over the latest crisis that has killed at least 16 people since the weekend and urged the government and opposition to resolve their disputes through dialogue.

On Tuesday, police opened fire on supporters of the government and opposition as they clashed in the southwestern district of Magura, leaving an opposition backer dead, the Daily Star newspaper and TV stations reported. That raised the death toll to 16.

Homemade bombs exploded in several parts of the country, including the capital where a police official was hurt, said Sheikh Maruf Hasan, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official.

Scores more have been injured across the country since Sunday when the decades-old rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia flared anew, with the nationwide strike closing down businesses and roads, and government opponents clashing with police and ruling party supporters.

Hasina called Zia on Saturday to appeal to her to not try to enforce the strike. It was believed to be the first time the two have had a conversation in at least a decade.

Despite the rare appeal, Zia refused to call off the strike, which was due to end Tuesday.

Zia wants to force Hasina's government to quit so a caretaker administration can oversee an election scheduled to be held by early next year.

The opposition says the government is not capable of holding a credible vote and has threatened to boycott the election unless a caretaker government is appointed from outside the main political parties.

Hasina has proposed forming a caretaker government from ruling and opposition parties to supervise the vote.

Bangladesh, a parliamentary democracy, has been alternately ruled by Hasina and Zia since 1991, but peaceful transfers of power have remained a major challenge.