Dhaka: At least five people, including a woman, were killed and over 50 others injured on Sunday as police opened fire during clashes with Islamists who enforced a nationwide shutdown demanding execution of "atheist bloggers" for alleged blasphemy. Five people were killed when strike supporters clashed with the police and local people in Manikganj's Singair upazila during the nationwide strike called by 12 Islamist parties, police and witnesses said.
"Five people including a woman were killed in clashes ...the Islamist groups claimed four them to be activists of theirs," a witness said. The witness said that several activists of Islamist outfit Kherlafat Majlish backed by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) attacked policemen as they intervened at the scene after the Islamists assaulted a senior ruling Awami League leader.
The Awami League leader led an anti-strike demonstration and tried to clear a barricade on a major highway, set up to enforce the stoppage. "Angry villagers joined the clashes after an ordinary housewife died in police gunshots worsening the situation.... Khelafat Majlish and Jamaat said the four dead were their workers," the witness said.
Chief of the local police station Liakat Ali said 16 policemen, including himself, were wounded in the clash. "They (Islamists) attacked us with large heavy knives, sticks, bricks and firearms from three sides...We had to use gunshots and tear gas shells for self-defence," a police officer was quoted by TV channels as saying.
Media reports said over 50 people were injured and were under treatment at local hospitals. The violence erupted as 12 parties, proclaiming to be "like-minded Islamic parties", called the nationwide shutdown as a counter protest against youngsters, including internet bloggers, whom they called "atheists and anti-Islam".
The youngsters denied the allegation as a "nasty propaganda" and urged their countrymen to be alert against "exploitation of their religious sentiment" by such a campaign. Earlier this month, a 17-day round the clock vigil at Dhaka's Shahbagh Square was staged by protesters demanding death penalty of several top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders as they were being tried for 1971 "crimes against humanity".
The Islamists strike, however, had little impact in the capital and several other major cities with a large number of vehicles plying on the roads defying the call. The businesses and offices were open as thousands of youths and different student organisations staged street marches against the war criminals.
The strike came a day after thousands of Bangladeshi youngsters on Saturday took a fresh vow to carry on their street campaign for death penalty of the Islamist leaders, being tried for 1971 war crimes. They shouted "death to the killers" rallying at Dhaka's Rayerbazar mass killing ground, where dozens of leading intelligentsia were hacked to death by Bengali-speaking collaborators of Pakistani troops just ahead of December 16, 1971, victory.
"We will carry on our movement until sending the war criminals including (JI leader) Abdul Quader Mollah to gallows," a leading organiser of the youngsters said, administering the oath with thousands repeating the words raising their hands high. Earlier on Friday, four people were killed as the right-wing Islamists clashed with the police after the weekly prayers and demanded death penalty for the youngsters whom they dubbed as "atheists" carrying out anti-Islam campaign.