Fresh violence over the conviction of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami’s 91-year-old supremo Ghulam Azad left at least four persons dead, even as machete-wielding protesters went on the rampage enforcing a country-wide strike on Tuesday.
Two Islamist demonstrators, including a minor, were killed in police firing when several thousand Islamists attacked police with sticks, machetes and crude bombs in southwestern Satkhita, officials and reports said.
“They (Jamaat) activists violently attacked us with lethal weapons and homemade bombs… we were forced to fire gunshots for our defence when the two died,” a police officer said.
In a separate incident, a 9-year-old girl was run over by a speeding bus that was being chased by protesters in suburban Gazipur. Another person died after being allegedly attacked by rival activists at southwestern Dinajpur.
The violence comes a day after Jamaat workers hacked to death a local leader of ruling Awami League at Satkhira ahead of the verdict sentencing Azam to 90 years in prison for the 1971 “crimes against humanity“.
Jamaat rejected the International Crimes Tribunal verdict saying it was delivered as part of a plot to eliminate their leadership as it called for a nation-wide strike on Tuesday.
Businesses and shops were shut country-wide for the strike which started on Monday and roads and highways were largely empty, bringing inter-district transport to a halt.
Security was tight in the capital Dhaka, with thousands of police patrolling the streets.
The Awami League on Tuesay cautiously welcomed the judgment on Azam with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina saying “We are satisfied with the tribunal’s verdict… What the punishment should be is the matter of the court“.
Jamaat’s crucial ally, the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), however, declined to make any comment on the judgment.
Azam is the fifth Jamaat-e-Islami politician to be convicted by the International Crimes Tribunal since the trial of war crimes suspects, mostly belonging to the Islamist group, began three years ago.
Keywords: Bangladesh violence, Bangla police firing, south-western Dinajpur, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tajul Islam, Ghulam Azam, International Crimes Tribunal verdict