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Mollah hanged after court rejects plea
- Jamaat leader’s death threatens to spark violence, security beefed up in Dhaka

Dhaka, Dec. 12 (Agencies): Bangladesh today executed a senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader who was convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War, hours after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal, officials said.

The death threatened to spark new violence ahead of national elections next month.

Sheikh Yousuf Harun, chief government administrator in Dhaka, said Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged at 10.01pm, local time (09.30pm IST). The Jamaat-e-Islami immediately called a nationwide general strike tomorrow.

Mollah’s body was kept hanging for 20 minutes before it was brought down, Dhaka’s Deputy Commissioner Sheikh Yususf Mreedha said.

Jail sources said prisoner Shahjahan Mian, 60, carried out the execution as the chief hangman with assistance from five other inmates serving long sentences.

TV channels showed an ambulance entering the jail after its huge iron gates were opened, presumably to carry Mollah’s body to his village in western Faridpur district.

Dhaka’s district magistrate, civil surgeon and prison officials witnessed the execution, while an Islamic cleric administered a special prayer when Mollah sought God’s mercy while taking his final bath.

Abdul Quader Mollah

Forces from the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh, elite Rapid Action Battalion and riot police formed a three-tier security blanket as the Jamaat had earlier warned of dire consequence if its assistant secretary general was executed.

Witnesses said Mollah’s two sons, four daughters and wife were his last visitors at 6.25pm (5.55pm IST).

Mollah, 65, was found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s war of independence against Pakistan in 1971. The government says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war.

Mollah, who was known as the Butcher of Mirpur, is the first person executed after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed in 2010 began trying people suspected of crimes during the war. Most of the defendants are Opposition members.

Mollah backed Pakistani troops during the war and gained notoriety for leading the infamous Al-Badr militia in the Dhaka suburb of Mirpur. He had a role in slaughtering a large number of people, including women and children.

Mollah’s execution had been placed on hold on Tuesday night just before he originally was to have been put to death. The Supreme Court rejected his final appeal today.

The Jamaat and the BNP say the trials are an attempt to weaken the Opposition and eliminate Islamic parties. Authorities have denied the allegations.

Earlier today, party activists clashed with police, torched or smashed vehicles and exploded homemade bombs in three other major cities — Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi, TV stations reported. Scores of people were injured in the latest violence, which has seen weeks of escalating tension as it struggles to overcome rancorous politics.

Security officials opened fire to disperse Opposition activists in eastern Bangladesh, leaving at least three persons dead and 15 others wounded, Dhaka’s leading Bengali-language newspaper, Prothom Alo, reported.

The violence broke out in Laxmipur district, 95km east of Dhaka, during a blockade after elite security forces raided and searched the home of an Opposition leader, the report said. The execution complicates an already critical political situation in Bangladesh, where the Opposition has carried out violent protests for weeks demanding an independent caretaker government to oversee the general election set for January 5.

The government has rejected that demand and said a political government headed by Hasina will conduct the election, although the Opposition alliance led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia plans to boycott the vote.

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