A man died of bullet injuries after police and BNP activists clashed in front of the party's Nayapaltan headquarters in the capital on Wednesday amid political tensions brewing ahead of the BNP's 10 December Dhaka rally.
Following the clashes that lasted more than three hours on Wednesday afternoon, at least 20 persons were brought to Dhaka Medical College Hospital till 8pm, according to Bachchu Mia, a police inspector and also in-charge of Dhaka Medical College Hospital police outpost.
"Doctors pronounced one of them, 30-year-old Mokbul Hossain, dead," he said, adding that the body bore multiple pellet injuries.
Police could not confirm Mokbul's political affiliation immediately.
Talking to reporters in front of the party headquarters in the evening, however, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed that two BNP men died in the clashes and at least 100 partymen got injured.
As the top BNP leader was talking to journalists, police cordoned off the Nayapaltan BNP office, where the party plans to hold the political gathering after a series of divisional rallies across the country.
Dozens of BNP leaders and activists, including the party's Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, Publicity Secretary Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Annie, former Chhatra Dal president Abdul Kader Bhuiyan Jewel and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's Special Assistant Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, were among those detained from the scene on Wednesday.
Around noon, BNP activists started to gather at Nayapaltan to make enquiries about the political programme, said BNP leaders, as the venue of the rally was yet to be finalised by the authorities.
A large number of police personnel were deployed on nearby roads.
According to witnesses, the gathering at one point blocked the road as police asked them to leave. As they did not do so, police fired tear shells and blank shots to try and disperse the crowd around 3pm. The BNP men retaliated by throwing bricks at the policemen.
The clashes froze vehicular movements from Fakirapul to the Nightingale intersection.
At one point, the BNP men ducked into nearby alleys to escape the police and continued to throw bricks at the law enforcers. The policemen eventually entered the alleys and beat them up.
Subsequently, SWAT members were called in and armoured police vehicles rumbled into the area. The heavily armed police backup included riot cars and bomb disposal units.
In the evening, police raided the party headquarters and allegedly charged batons on BNP men who had been trapped inside.
Mirza Fakhrul then appeared at the scene as the law enforcers did not allow him to enter the office.
Accusing the government of "the planned violence" to "foil the rally", Fakhrul said, "We definitely hold the government responsible for today's unexpected incident."
He claimed that police held nearly 500 BNP leaders and activists in front of the party office.
On Wednesday night, Biplob Kumar Sarker, joint commissioner (operations) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said police were yet to ascertain how many people had been arrested.
"We have detained many terrorists and their instigators," he told The Business Standard.
Section 144 if BNP doesn't hold rally at Suhrawardy: DMP
Amid the deadly clashes, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq appeared at a press conference, defending police measures ahead of the rally.
He maintained that the political gathering on 10 December must be held on open ground, not on the streets.
The top police official said police would be compelled to impose Section 144 – which bans any types of gathering – if the BNP does not agree to arrange the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan.
Referring to police intel, the DMP commissioner said the BNP is planning to gather 10 lakh people and carry out subversive activities centred on the 10 December rally.
He said Nayapaltan can accommodate a maximum of 70,000-80,000 people, while the remaining 9 lakh could swamp the city.
"We can't sit idle letting the people into that chaos."
The DMP official said police also have intel about crude bombs being brought into the capital inside commodity consignments ahead of the BNP rally.
"When it comes to public safety and security, we cannot compromise," he said as he defended Nayapaltan police deployment with military grade weapons and calling in the bomb disposal unit subsequently.
Khandker Golam Faruq said, "They [BNP] gathered on roads blocking traffic despite having no scheduled programme today."