Seven dead in Bangladesh's election anniversary protests

By Ruma Paul DHAKA (Reuters) - Three people have been killed in Bangladesh, bringing to seven the number of deaths since protests over a disputed election turned violent earlier this week. Two people were shot dead when police and armed protesters began firing in the southern district of Noakhali late on Wednesday, police said. It was unclear who fired the shots that killed them. The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said the victims were its supporters. Police official Mohammad Ainul Haq told Reuters they were bystanders. Separately, police said an auto-rickshaw passenger was attacked and killed by anti-government protesters in the central district of Sirajganj, also on Wednesday. Four people were killed on Monday, during protests held on the first anniversary of a disputed election. The BNP boycotted that election, and its leader, Begum Khaleda Zia, has called for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down and a new election to be held. Hasina has refused to step down. On Thursday, police filed a sedition case against Khaleda's son, Tareque Rahman, her political heir-apparent, for making abusive statements. Those included calling Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's founding leader and Hasina's father, an enemy of Bangladesh and friend of Pakistan. Bangladesh won independence in 1971 after nine-month war to break away from Pakistan. The case came one day after the High Court issued an order "to prohibit all media to publish any statement" by Rahman. Early on Thursday, the house of one of the two judges who passed the order was set on fire, police said. In the northeast, BNP supporters derailed a train, injuring 20, in response to Khaleda's call for a nationwide blockade. The prime minister denounced the BNP leadership's calls for protest. "It is not a mass movement," Hasina said at a seminar in Dhaka. "It is terrorism. It is militancy." Khaleda says she has been confined to her office in the diplomatic enclave of Dhaka, the capital, since the weekend. The government denied Khaleda was being held against her will. It said it had deployed extra security for her protection. Police unlocked the main gate to the office on Thursday, but security forces remained deployed outside and the opposition leader had not left the premises. (Editing by Krista Mahr, Larry King)