Bangladesh deploys troops as clashes escalate

At least 23 people killed during strike called in protest over death sentence given to Jamaat-e-Islami party leader.

At least 23 people have been killed in fresh clashes across Bangladesh at the start of a nationwide strike called over a death sentence given to an Islamist party leader for war crimes in the Muslim-majority nation.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee, of Jamaat-e-Islami, was found guilty on Thursday of murder, religious persecution and rape during the 1971 independence war, triggering violent clashes between Jamaat supporters and police across the country.

Security forces were deployed in the northern district of Bogra, as local media reported Jamaat activists attacking police outposts early on Sunday.

 Jamaat-e-Islami called a two-day strike across the country in protest at the court ruling [Al Jazeera]

Eleven people were shot dead in the northern district of Bogra and one policeman was killed in clashes with protesters in the western district of Jhenidah, police officials said, adding two people were killed late on Saturday.

More than 10,000 stick-wielding protesters attacked five police stations in Bogra, forcing police to open fire, they said. 

The Jamaat-e-Islami, country’s largest Islamic party, has enforced a nationwide two-day strike, that begins on Sunday, to protest against the verdict and killing of its activists in police “brutalities”.

A police chief told AFP news agency that at least four people had died in the town of Shahjahanpur.

“The toll could rise,” Shahjahanpur district’s deputy police chief Moqbul Ahmed said, adding that troops had been deployed to boost security.

Our correspondent in Bangladesh, who we are not naming for security purposes, says there has been no let up in the violence since the verdict was issued.

“Troops are on the streets in Bogra – after police stations came under attack – and it is the only district in Bangladesh where the army has been deployed, because they are very concerned about what’s happened in the last 24 hours.”

“Section 144 of the penal code has now been imposed, which means that gatherings of four or more people are banned,” our correspondent added.

Deadly clashes

Two other people were also killed on Saturday night, including a ruling party student activist who was allegedly hacked to death by suspected Jamaat supporters, police said.
An inter-city train was torched late on Saturday in the northwest, but there were no casualties, police said.

The death toll in the clashes over the war crimes verdicts has risen to 78 since January 21, including 62 killed in the past four days after Jamaat’s vice president was sentenced to death, police said.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee was found guilty on Thursday of murder, religious persecution and rape during the 1971 independence war, triggering violent clashes between Jamaat supporters and police across the country.

The sentence on Thursday sparked riots that have left at least 62 people dead in the past four days  [Al Jazeera]

The 73-year-old leader was the third person to be convicted by the war crimes tribunal, whose verdicts have been met with outrage from supporters.

Jamaat says the tribunal process is politically motivated, something the Bangladesh government denies.

India’s President Pranab Mukherjee is on a three-day state visit to Bangladesh.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told local media Mukherjee’s visit “is not designed to engage in political negotiations”.

The war crimes trials of a dozen Jamaat and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders have opened old wounds and divided the nation, with the opposition parties accusing the government of staging a witch-hunt.

The government, which says the war claimed three million lives, rejects the claims and accuses Jamaat leaders for much of the carnage during the 1971 independence war.

Jamaat-e-Islami backed Pakistan during the independence war but denies their supporters were involved in atrocities.

Independent estimates put the death toll from the war in which Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan at a much lower figure of 300,000 to 500,000.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies