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44 killed in death sentence riots


Delwar Hossain Sayeedi has been given the death sentence (AP)

Delwar Hossain Sayeedi has been given the death sentence (AP)


Delwar Hossain Sayeedi has been given the death sentence (AP)

Protesters have clashed with police for a second day as the death toll rose to at least 44 in riots 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.

At least 42 people were killed on Thursday in rioting triggered 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 the capital, 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 prayers, and authorities responded by dispatching thousands of police and paramilitary troops to clamp down on Dhaka.

Jamaat urged its supporters to converge on mosques to offer a special mass prayer for those killed during Thursday's violence, and there were fears that more confrontations could erupt after Friday prayers. Private Ekattor TV reported that Jamaat supporters had 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," Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam said. "We will not allow them to destroy democracy."

Passions have boiled over in recent weeks as tribunals have tried suspects on accusations they committed crimes during the country's war for independence from Pakistan. Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the fighting.

Thousands of students turned a Dhaka intersection into a protest camp last month, demanding the execution of one Jamaat leader given a life sentence after his conviction for mass killings. On Thursday, Sayedee was sentenced to death for mass killings, rape and atrocities committed during the bloody nine-month war.

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. "We must stand up against such brutalities."