Army sent to north Bangladesh as clashes continue
Authorities deployed soldiers in a northern Bangladeshi district on Sunday after Islamic party activists clashed with police, leaving five people dead during a nationwide general strike called to denounce war crimes trials. Seven people died in similar clashes in the northwest, police and news reports said.
With the latest casualties, the death toll in four days of rioting climbed to 58. The clashes broke out Thursday after a war crimes tribunal sentenced a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's largest Islamic party, to death for atrocities committed during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
Delwar Hossain Sayedee was the third defendant to be convicted by the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.
Bangladesh says the war left 3 million people dead, 200,000 women raped and forced millions to flee to neighboring India.
Mokbul Hossain, a police superintendent in Bogra district, said the deployment of troops there came after five men died in clashes on Sunday.
Hossain said the latest violence erupted after Jamaat-e-Islami activists attacked at least four police outposts and an office of the ruling Awami League party and torched the home of a local ruling party leader.
Authorities banned all gatherings in Bogra to stop any further escalation of violence.
Separately, three people, including a child, died in violence in the northwestern district of Rajshahi, the Daily Star newspaper and Independent television station reported. Details were not immediately available and the reports could not be independently verified.
Another three people were killed in clashes between police and Jamaat activists in Joypurhar district, a local police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Joypurhat is 208 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Dhaka, the capital.
A policeman was killed in similar clashes in western Jhenaidah district, the Daily Star reported.
In Dhaka, schools and most businesses remained closed Sunday while traffic on the usually clogged streets was thin during the first day of a two-day nationwide strike called by Jamaat-e-Islami. Thousands of security officials were patrolling the streets, according to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
In another development Sunday, the government filed an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking the death penalty for another Jamaat leader, Abdul Quader Mollah, Attorney General Mahbube Alam said. Last month, Mollah was convicted of mass killings during the 1971 war. He received a life prison sentence, a penalty the prosecution considered too lenient.
Seven other Jamaat leaders, including its chief, Matiur Rahman Nizami, are on trial on war crimes charges. The party is accused of forming auxiliary forces that helped the Pakistani army in killing and other serious crimes during the war.
Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh's struggle for freedom in 1971 but denies committing atrocities, called for a nonstop shutdown across the country for Sunday and Monday to protest the trials.
The United Nations, the United States and the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch have all expressed their concerns over the violence and urged all sides to stop the fighting.
Jamaat is a partner in Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, and was a partner in Zia's government from 2001 to 2006.
Zia says the war crimes trials are politically motivated to target the opposition, an allegation denied by the government. Zia's party has called for a nationwide general strike for Tuesday.