DHAKA, Bangladesh – Security forces on Saturday opened fire on a group of protesters who tried to seize an office of a British coal firm in northern Bangladesh, killing at least six and wounding 50 others, a news report said.
The melee occurred at Phulbari in Dinajpur district, 170 miles north of Dhaka, when the protesters tried to seize the office of the Asia Energy, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.
Thousands of protesters — under the banner of the leftist National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port — gathered at the scene to take over of the office of the London-based firm, said Nurul Alam, battalion Commander of the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles.
He told reporters at the scene that police and paramilitary force clashed with the protesters after they became violent. He said more than a dozen security officials were also wounded in the clash.
However, he confirmed only two deaths, and declined to provide further details.
Abul Hossain Rubel , a spokesman for the leftist group, claimed at least eight protesters were killed in the shootings, according to the agency report. It was not possible immediately to confirm his claim.
Rubel said the demonstration had been "peaceful."
The protesters demanded the government cancel all the firm's activities, saying the development of the mine would displace more than 40,000 residents from adjoining areas.
They said the project would also pollute rivers, destroy biodiversity in the area and ruin some archaeological sites.
Meanwhile, Gary Lye, chief executive officer of Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd , said in a statement that a group of outsiders was trying to provoke local communities in the name of protests in a bid to create chaos.
Asia Energy PLC plans to invest $2.5 billion in the coal mine.
In October, the company presented a joint feasibility study and proposal to the government through its subsidiary Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd. to develop the Phulbari mine.
It also submitted a plan to set up a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant at the site. The company is awaiting the government's approval to start the mining operations.