Protesters clashed with police for a second day yesterday as the death toll rose to at least 44, in clashes triggered by a death sentence given to an Islamic party leader for crimes linked to Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, police said.
The latest fighting broke out in northern Gainbandha and Chapainawabganj districts, killing two people, police officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak publicly.
At least 42 people were killed on Thursday in rioting sparked by the death sentence given to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, one of the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party.
In Dhaka, dozens of Jamaat supporters smashed several vehicles in central Malibagh District, witnesses said.
Baton-wielding police dispersed the protesters.
Jamaat had called for protests after Friday’s Islamic prayers, and authorities responded by dispatching thousands of police and paramilitary troops to clamp down on Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.
Jamaat urged supporters to converge on mosques to offer a special mass prayer for those killed during the violence on Thursday, and there were fears that more confrontations could erupt after Friday prayers. Private Ekattor TV reported that Jamaat supporters set up roadblocks in parts of the country, cutting off travel.
“We must stay alert. Jamaat and its allies are trying to plunge the nation into anarchy,” Bangladeshi Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam said. “We will not allow them to destroy democracy.”
Sayedee was sentenced to death for mass killings, rape and atrocities committed during the bloody nine-month war.
His supporters responded by pouring into the streets, where they clashed with police, attacked government offices and uprooted railway tracks in parts of the country.
Protesters also set fire to dozens of houses belonging to government supporters.
Police responded with bullets and tear gas.
Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam accused security forces of deliberately killing the protesters.
“It was another form of mass killings,” he told reporters yesterday. “We must stand up against such brutalities.”