Dhaka, Feb 28 (PTI): Bangladesh was on the boil today as at least 23 people, including three policemen, were killed and scores injured in violence after a death sentence was handed down to a top leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami for “crimes against humanity” during the 1971 liberation war.
The violence followed the verdict of the special Bangladeshi tribunal that handed down death penalty to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the party, amid a nationwide shutdown called by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
“He (Delwar Hossain Sayedee) will be hanged by neck till he is dead,” pronounced chairman of the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal Justice ATM Fazle Kabir.
At least 23 people were killed as the activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir went on the rampage across the country after Sayedee’s verdict, the Daily Star reported.
The victims included the cops, activists of Jamaat, Shibir, Juba League and common people.
Of the deceased, six people, including three policemen, were killed in Gaibandha, four in Thakurgaon, three in Satkhira, two each in Rangpur, Noakhali and Sirajganj while one each in Dinajpur, Natore, Cox’s Bazar and Chapainawabganj.
In Gaibandha after the verdict several thousand supporters of the Islamic party attacked a police outpost in Sundarganj upazila.
They beat three policemen to death and set fire to the outpost. In response, police opened fire, leaving three people killed.
In Thakurgaon about 1,500 Jamaat-Shibir men took out a procession after the verdict and attacked shops and houses of Awami League men and the Hindu community.
Police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) teams rushed there and fired blank shots and tear shells to disperse the attackers.
Encircling the police, the marauding Jamaat-Shibir men started to throw brick-bats and, at one stage, closed in to fight them. Police opened fire to escape, leaving one dead on the spot and about eight to 10 injured.
Sayedee is the third JI 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.
In the first verdict of the tribunal in January, former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad was sentenced to death on similar charges.
Another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah was sentenced to life in February for atrocities during the war.
Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamic party in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, was opposed to the 1971 liberation war when officially 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women were raped.
A 13-year-old Shibir supporter, was later found lying dead, bullet-hit, inside a shop. Two other persons were declared dead at the Thakurgaon Sadar Hospital, police said.
At least two people were killed and 57 others injured during clashes between the activists of JI-Shibir and the police in the northwestern district of Rangpur.
The deceased were Shibir activists.
In Noakhali after the pronouncement of the verdict, Jamaat and Shibir activists set fire to a temple and houses of Hindu community.
Two people were killed as the activists clashed with law enforcers at different points in Noakhali.
In Dinajpur, a Shibir man was killed and two sustained bullet wounds when the BGB men opened fire on activists of JI and Shibir.
Three people in Satkhira, two in Sirajganj and one each in Cox’s Bazar and Chapainawabganj, were killed in violence following the verdict.
An Awami League activist was hacked to death in Natore district.
JI activists also attacked police camps at different places.
Authorities earlier called out paramilitary BGB along with the police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to maintain law and order.
The verdict came as a security blanket covered the capital Dhaka and other major cities after JI called a nationwide shutdown coinciding with the date of the judgement, while thousands of youngsters enforced a street vigil demanding the capital punishment for the war criminals.
Following the verdict, thousands of youngsters celebrated beating drums and chanting slogans in the capital and several other major cities where transport plied in large numbers and offices and businesses remained open defying the JI strike call.
“Hang the war criminals, ban Jamaat-Shibir,” they shouted parading the city streets.
No clash was reported in Dhaka though witnesses said JI activists tried to make visible their presence on the street exploding homemade bombs and staging street marches at places but fled the scenes as police chased them with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters.