Bangladeshi police shot dead two in riots

Officers say they fired in self-defence against Islamists' attacks over war crimes trial

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 5:58am


Bangladeshi police fired live rounds yesterday in fresh clashes with supporters of the country's largest Islamic party whose leaders are standing trial for war crimes, killing two people.

The clashes came a day after the Muslim-majority nation was hit by deadly violence between police and Islamists demanding the execution of bloggers they accuse of blasphemy, which left four people dead and about 200 injured.

In yesterday's clashes, police said they fired live rounds after up to 5,000 Islamists attacked them with stones and firearms just outside northern Pabna town, injuring about 30 people.

"We fired in self-defence," Pabna's deputy police chief Mollick Ruhul Amin said.

"One of our officers was also hit by a bullet and at least 10 to 12 policemen were injured."

Jamaat-e-Islami party called a half-day strike in Pabna district to protest what they say were attacks by ruling party supporters on its members and offices on Friday.

Abu Taleb, district Jamaat secretary, said police shot dead unarmed protesters, while denying that its own activists had attacked them.

The party has mounted a string of nationwide strikes since last month, protesting against trials of 10 of its leaders, including its head and deputy head, for war crimes allegedly committed in the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

At least 16 people have been killed during protests over the war crimes trials, including several shot dead by police.

The clashes have intensified since a Jamaat leader was sentenced to life imprisonment for mass murder during the war in which the country's secular government says 3 million people were killed.

Jamaat said the trials were based on trumped-up charges and part of a wider political vendetta against the opposition.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed rejects the accusations, saying the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the war. It accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the 1971 carnage.