Dhaka - Three people were killed in nationwide clashes as Bangladesh's opposition on Sunday began a strike to demand the prime minister quit and make way for polls under a caretaker government.
Police said officers opened fire at protesters in the western town of Nagarkanda after about 3 000 supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) ransacked a rural market and attacked police with bricks.
"We opened fire in self-defence," district police chief Jamil Ahsan told AFP, adding one opposition activist was killed during the clashes there.
Two other people were killed elsewhere in Bangladesh as the three-day strike got under way, with small protests erupting across the country and thousands of extra police and paramilitary officers deployed.
The BNP and its Islamist allies ordered the strike to go ahead after last-minute talks between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia late on Saturday failed to defuse a mounting crisis.
Zia rejected Hasina's appeal to call off the strike issued during a 40-minute phone conversation - believed to be the first time in at least a decade that the two "battling begums" have spoken. "Begum" is an honorific for a Muslim woman of rank.