Dhaka: Clashes broke out between activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and police in several Bangladeshi cities on Wednesday after the execution of the top Islamist leader Motiur Rahman Nizami for war crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.
The clashes came as Bangladesh intensified security across the country following Jamaat's call for a nationwide strike tomorrow to protest the execution of its top leader, heightening tensions in the Muslim-majority nation already reeling from a series of killings of secular activists.
Policemen in riot-gear fired rubber bullets when hundreds of Jamaat supporters pelted them with stones in the northwestern city of Rajshahi, where a liberal professor was hacked to death by Islamists near his home last month.
73-year-old Nizami was hanged at midnight at the Central Jail here after the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.
Several hundred policemen in riot-gear kept a vigil as Jamaat activists rallied at central Dhaka's Baitul Mokarram National Mosque to offer Nizami's funeral prayer (in absentia), a ritual they also performed in other major cities.
Security was tight across Bangladesh, with checkpoints erected on main roads in the national capital to deter violence, and thousands of police patrolling the streets.
In the port city of Chittagong, clashes erupted between activists of the Jamaat's student wing Chhatra Shibir and police after the funeral prayer.
After the funeral prayer, hundreds of Jamaat supporters broke into the ground and started hurling bricks and stones at the police which resorted to firing to disperse the crowd.
Home-made bombs were also used as "pro-liberation" activists tried to drive out the Jamaat followers from the parade ground area of the port city, perceived to be a Jamaat stronghold.
"Orders have been issued to keep the security vigil so no law and order situation is created anywhere," a home ministry spokesman told PTI after Jamaat called a nationwide general strike tomorrow to protest the execution of its top leader.
Jamaat, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, described Nizami's execution as a "planned murder".
"He (Nizami) was deprived of justice. He is a victim of political vengeance," acting Jamaat chief Mokbul Ahmed said in the statement urging people to observe the strike.
Jamaat's previous such strike calls protesting the trial of their senior leaders for war crimes largely went unheeded.
The party last called a nationwide strike on May 6, a day after the Supreme Court rejected Nizami's review petition reconfirming his death penalty.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Nizami had preferred not to seek presidential clemency as his last effort to avoid the noose "because he understood the crimes he had committed were unpardonable".
Nizami was buried in line with Islamic rituals at his village home at northwestern Pabna's Sathia sub-district early this morning in presence of family members and neighbours while armed police kept a sharp vigil.