Clashes during general strike kill 3 in Bangladesh

AP News
Posted: Mar 04, 2013 11:42 AM
Clashes during general strike kill 3 in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Activists from Bangladesh's largest Islamic party clashed with security forces for a fifth day Monday during a nationwide strike called to denounce war crimes trials, leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured, police and media reports said.

The casualties raised the death toll to 61 from rioting triggered by a death sentence given last Thursday to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 73, a top leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, for alleged crimes linked to the nation's 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Rampaging supporters of Sayedee attacked police and government offices, uprooted railroad tracks, and set fire to trains and houses belonging to government supporters. Police responded with bullets and tear gas.

The opposition party says the war crime trials are politically motivated and are aimed at destroying the political opposition. The government has denied the allegation.

Police fired on protesters in Satkhira district, killing two people, a local police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Satkhira is 175 kilometers (110 miles) west of Dhaka.

A teenage protester was killed in a similar clash in Sirajganj district, 105 kilometers (65 miles) northwest of Dhaka, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

In Dhaka, a small homemade bomb exploded outside a hotel where visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was staying. Police official Biplab Sarker said no one was hurt and Pranab was not in the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel when the explosion occurred.

The Indian president arrived in Dhaka on Sunday for a three-day visit.

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Also on Monday, protesters set fire to two coaches of a train parked at Dhaka's main railway station, junior railway minister Mujibul Haq said. The coaches were empty and no one was hurt.

The rioting underlines Bangladesh's history of political violence. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government initiated the war crimes trials in 2010. Prosecutors have put 12 people on trial, including 11 opposition politicians belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami and its main ally, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Bangladesh says its nine-month war of independence left 3 million people dead, 200,000 women raped and forced millions to flee to neighboring India.

Jamaat campaigned against independence, but denies committing atrocities.