Five people killed as police fire at protesting workers in Bangladesh

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Dhaka (Reuters) – At least five people were killed and dozens injured in Bangladesh on Saturday after police opened fire on a crowd of workers protesting to demand unpaid wages and a pay rise at a Chinese-backed power plant, officials and police said.

Police opened fire after about 2,000 of the protesters began hurling bricks and stones at officers at the construction site of the coal-fired plant in the southeastern city of Chittagong, local police official Azizul Islam told Reuters.

Four protesters died at the scene and another died in hospital, he said.

“We’re trying to control the situation,” Islam said, adding that at least six police officers were among those injured.

The workers attacked and set fire to several structures at the 1,320-megawatt power plant, located 265 km (165 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka, he added.

Local government official Saiduzzaman Chowdhury said the workers were protesting over unpaid wages and to press demands for a pay rise and reduced hours during the holy month of Ramadan, which started this week, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

Several of the injured workers had gunshot wounds and were taken to a hospital in Chittagong, he said, adding that the five people who were killed had all been shot.

The $2.4-billion power plant is a major source of foreign investment into Bangladesh, and one of a series of projects that Beijing is pushing to cultivate closer ties with Dhaka.

In 2016, China’s SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction signed a deal with S Alam Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate responsible for construction work at the site.

During that year, four protesters opposed to its construction were killed when police opened fire during clashes between villagers who were demonstrating both for and against the project.

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