At least 12 people were killed in election-day clashes in Bangladesh on Sunday, after a bloody campaign overshadowed by a crackdown on the opposition by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is expected to win a historic but controversial fourth term.
Three men were shot by police while eight others died in clashes between activists from the ruling Awami League Party and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), police said.
An auxiliary police member was killed after being attacked by opposition activists armed with guns and sticks, according to officials.
Voting, which ended at 4:00pm (1000 GMT), was held under tight security. Polls have predicted that Hasina will clinch a third-consecutive term and record fourth overall.
Bangladesh’s leader has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during an unbroken decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.
But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition — including arch-rival Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges — to cling on to power.
The election campaign was marred by violence between supporters of Hasina’s Awami League and Zia’s BNP.
Some 600,000 security personnel were deployed across the South Asian country, including at 40,000 polling stations.
Authorities ordered mobile operators to shut down 3G and 4G services until midnight on Sunday “to prevent the spread of rumours” that could trigger unrest.
The election-day deaths brought to 16 the official police toll for election violence since the ballot was announced on November 8.
Police said they acted “in self-defence” in the southern town of Bashkhali, when they opened fire on opposition supporters who attempted to storm a polling booth, killing one.
In a separate incident another man was shot by police after he tried to steal a ballot box.