Three die in violent clashes over execution

At least three people were killed when the execution of an opposition leader in Bangladesh sparked violent protests yesterday.

Activists torched homes and businesses belonging to government supporters in a fresh wave of bloodshed ahead of elections next month.

Abdul Quader Mollah, 65, was hanged on Thursday night for war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. The case has exacerbated the explosive political divide in Bangladesh, an impoverished country of 160 million.

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Even as violence swept through parts of the country yesterday, hundreds of people rejoiced in the streets of the capital, Dhaka, and said justice had been served.

In an editorial, Bangladesh’s English-language Daily Star newspaper congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for trying and executing Mollah “40 long years” after he committed his crimes.

Mollah, a leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, was the first person to be hanged for war crimes in Bangladesh under an international tribunal established in 2010 to investigate atrocities stemming from the independence war.

Yesterday, Jamaat-e-Islami activists attacked ruling party supporters and minority Hindus in parts of Bangladesh, torching their homes and shops. At least three people died in the violence, local TV stations reported. Dhaka, however, was calm.

Hindus are believed to be supporters of Mr Hasina.

Following the execution, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Makbul Ahmed, said “people would take revenge on this killing by establishing Islam in Bangladesh, which is stained with the blood of Abdul Quader Mollah”.

Those who supported the execution said Mollah was executed for serious crimes. Bangladesh said Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators including Mollah, killed at least 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war against Pakistan.