Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman, 45, was killed in the southern city of Chittagong today, the Press Trust of India news agency reported here.
The agency said Bangladesh radio announced the news in a special bulletin this morning.
It was not immediately clear how he was killed in the hilly province of the poverty-stricken Asian nation.
Local news services and Vice President Abdul Sattar took over the government functions.
Bangladeshi embassy officials were not available immediately for comment.
President Zia is Bangladesh's seventh president in nine years of independence since the country was carved out of Pakistan following a civil war in 1971. At that time Pakistani forces were defeated by Bengali nationalists, who were supported by Indians, following Pakistani attempts to suppress the Bengali autonomy movement.
Zia assumed power from Abu Sadat Mohammed Sayem following a series of power plays between pro-Indian and pro-Pakistani factions during 1975 and 1976. He was confirmed in office by a nationwide referendum on May 30, 1977.
A number of senior Air Force officers staged a major coup attempt in October 1977, but Zia called for national elections six months later. Despite opposition allegations of polling irregularities, the incumbent was credited with a near three-to-one margin of victory over his closet rival in the December 1978 election and was sworn in for a five-year term. A new Parliament was elected in February 1979.
Zia hoped to change the nation's fortunes with what he called "production-oriented politics" stressing that political decisions should be aimed at economic progress and the welfare of the people.
He launched several agriculture and irrigation programs in an effort to convince the people of Bangladesh they could rise above their poverty through cooperation and hard work.
Zia was born Jan. 19, 1936, in the northern district of Bogra.
Bangladesh, formerly the eastern wing of Pakistan, has a population of 85 million and its per capita income of $70 a year is the lowest in the world.