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Central & South Asia

Bangladesh war crimes protest turn deadly

At least four people are killed as opposition activists clash with police during protests over a war crimes trial.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2013 07:20

Four people have died in clashes between Bangladeshi police and protesters during a new round of protests over war crimes trials as the unrest spread to the country's main tourist resort.

Police said violence on Friday erupted at Tarabunia in the southeastern Cox's Bazaar region as 5,000 supporters of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets to protest at the trials of their leaders by a government-appointed court.

Jamaat supporters armed with homemade firearms and bombs and stones attacked the security forces who retaliated with gunfire, said police officers.

"So far four people have died in the clashes," Nur Jahan, a local police officer, told the AFP new agency. A district administrator said three of the deceased were Jamaat supporters.

"There were up to 5,000 protesters. They suddenly attacked us with homemade guns and bombs. We fired back in self defence," said  local police chief Jashim Uddin, adding three of the dead were shot.

At least 13 people have now died during clashes over the ongoing trials in which a host of senior Jamaat figures - including the party's leader and deputy leader - are being tried over their role in the 1971 independence war.

The clashes have intensified since last week after a senior Jamaat leader was sentenced to life imprisonment for mass murder.

Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party have said the trials are based on bogus charges and part of a wider political vendetta.

The government says the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the nine-month war in which it says three million people were killed, many by pro-Pakistani militia whose members allegedly included Jamaat officials.

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