Dhaka: At least four people were killed and over 200 injured in Bangladesh on Friday as hundreds of Islamists clashed with police in Dhaka and other major cities demanding execution of "atheist bloggers" they accused of blasphemy. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse Islamists backed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party whose leaders are facing trial in special tribunals for "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.
While two deaths were reported from western Jhinaidah and northeaster Sylhet, two others died in northwestern Gaibandha. Parts of the capital Dhaka and southeastern port city of Chittagong turned into battlefields as protesters attacked police, damaged or torched shops and vehicles.
In Dhaka, the violence broke out outside the Baitul Mukarram national mosque, where the protesters also attacked around a dozen journalists. Several worshippers were trapped inside the mosque as police tried to thwart the protest by locking the gates.
Doctors at Dhaka's main state-run Medical College Hospital said they were treating several people with critical wounds caused by rubber bullets. Newly formed "12 Like Minded Islamic Parties", backed by JI, took to the street after Friday prayers in the capital and other cities and attacked journalists.
At least 20 reporters covering the violence were injured, journalist union said. Earlier in February, a special tribunal convicted JI assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah, of mass killings during the 1971 war siding with Pakistani troops and sentenced him to life in prison, angering thousands of youngsters who rallied at Dhaka's Shahbagh Square and staged a round the clock sit-in.
One of the leading organisers of the Shahbagh protest, a 35-year old architect and blogger Rajib Haidar was hacked to death and the protesters accused JI of murdering their comrade. To counter their protest, Islamists launched a campaign portraying him and fellow bloggers "anti-Islamic atheist".
But Friday's violence prompted Shahbagh youngsters to rally again at he same square in less than 24 hours they ended their round the clock sit-in demanding ban on JI and capital punishment for its stalwarts for 1971 war crimes like mass killings, tortures.