A Jamaat-e-Islami activist pleads with government supporters during clashes between the two groups in Dhaka. (AP)
Dhaka, Jan. 31 (PTI): Violence gripped Bangladesh today as hardline activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami clashed with police, leaving six people, including a constable, dead and several injured during a nationwide strike called to protest the 1971 Liberation War crimes’ trials.
The strike was called by the Jamaat-e-Islami and backed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to stop the trial of their top leaders for the war crimes.
Police said four people were killed in northwestern Bogra alone in clashes between pro-government and Jamaat activists. Riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas to quell the crowds in the town, seen as an Opposition stronghold.
“The four died within hours in the afternoon... Jamaat activists are still fighting law enforcement agencies,” a senior Bogra police officer told PTI by phone. A local journalist said the dead were suspected to be Jamaat workers.
Two of them died on the outskirts of the town as they exchanged fire with police and the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
The Bogra deputy commissioner, Sarwar Hossain, said the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) was on stand-by as the “violence was still under way” despite the end of the strike hours.
An autorickshaw driver died of his wounds after his vehicle was attacked by Jamaat activists for defying the strike call in southwestern Feni, the hometown of BNP chief Khaleda Zia.
The sixth victim was a policeman who died early this morning in Jessore district. Police said he died of a heart attack during clashes.
Witnesses said Jamaat activists fought with riot police in the Satmatha area of Bogra town, leaving over a dozen people injured at the fag end of the strike hours.
The party had called a half-day strike in Dhaka and Chittagong and a day-long shutdown elsewhere to demand the release of their top leaders including party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami who is being tried for “crimes against humanity” during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.