Strike over war crimes trials hits Bangladesh, 6 killed
Dhaka: Bangladesh was on the boil on Thursday as activists of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami clashed with the police, leaving six people, including a constable, dead and several others injured, during a nationwide strike called to protest the 1971 war crimes trials.
The nationwide general strike was enforced by the Jamaat-e-Islami and backed by main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to halt an ongoing trial of their top leaders for 1971 war crimes charges.
Police said four people were killed in northwestern Bogra alone in clashes between pro-government and JI activists, while the town, said to be an opposition stronghold, also saw riot police using rubber bullets and tear gas.
"The four died within hours in the afternoon... Jamaat activists are still fighting with law enforcement agencies," a senior police officer of Bogra told a news agency by phone.
A local journalist said the four dead were suspected to be JI workers. Two of them died on the outskirts of the town as they exchanged gunshots with police and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Deputy commissioner or administrative chief of Bogra Sarwar Hossain said paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) was kept on standby to be called out anytime as "violence is still underway" despite the end of the strike hours.
A driver of a three wheeler autorickshaw driver succumbed to his wounds after his vehicle was attacked by JI activists for defying the strike call in southwestern Feni, the hometown of BNP chief Khaleda Zia.
The sixth victim was a policeman who died earlier in the morning at western Jessore district, with police saying he died of a massive heart attack during clashes.
Witnesses said Jamaat-e-Islami activists clashed with riot police at Satmatha area of Bogra town, leaving over a dozen people injured at the fag end of the strike hours.
They said vandalism, explosion of homemade bombs and torching of vehicles marked the general strike in the capital Dhaka and southeastern port city of Chittagong where police arrested over a dozen Jamaat-e-Islami activists.
Jamaat had called a half-day shutdown in the capital Dhaka and southeastern port city of Chittagong and day-long strike elsewhere demanding release of their top leaders including party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, being tried for "crimes against humanity" during the India-backed 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.