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Bangladesh violence flares after 'Butcher of Mirpur' hangs

Islamist party calls general strike after leader's execution

Bangladesh violence flares after 'Butcher of Mirpur' hangs

Young progressives and secularists celebrate in Dhaka as news of Abdul Kader Mollah's execution spreads (photo by Shahadat Hosen) reporter, Dhaka

December 13, 2013

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Violence flared across Bangladesh on Friday hours after authorities hanged a top Islamist for war crimes.

Abdul Kader Mollah, 65, known as the “Butcher of Mirpur” for his part in the Bangladesh war of liberation from Pakistan in 1971, was hanged at 10:01 pm local time (4:00 pm GMT) on Thursday in Dhaka’s central jail.

The assistant secretary-general of the right wing Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party was the first person convicted by Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal to be executed.

The hanging took place after the Supreme Court rejected Mollah's final appeal against his death sentence. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had stayed his execution just hours before he was due to hang.

Mokbul Ahmad, acting chief of Jamaat, said the execution was a pre-planned conspiracy by the ruling Awami League government to destroy political opponents and called for a general strike on Sunday in protest.

“The government has heinously murdered Abdul Kader Mollah, defying appeals from Bangladeshi people and the international community. This killing will lead to the government’s political death,” Ahmad said in a statement immediately after the execution.

“The blood of Abdul Kader Mollah won’t be spilt in vain and Bangladeshi people will respond by firmly establishing Islam in this country,” he added.

Violence flared soon after the execution was announced.  

Hundreds of angry Jamaat supporters armed with crude bombs, rocks and sticks attacked police and Awami League supporters in several districts, local media reported. They also burned down around 100 homes and attacked the house of one of the tribunal judges.

Skirmishes among opposition and government supporters were reported in several towns and cities with two Awami League activists being reportedly hacked to death in the southern town of Kalaroa.

Mollah’s body was driven to his home village in Faridpur district in southern Bangladesh for burial amid tight security.

The execution was welcomed by relatives of Mollah’s alleged victims as well as thousands of young progressives and secularists who have campaigned for his death and for all other war criminals to be executed.

Journalist Abu Taleb was among those killed by Mollah and his associates. His grandson Amiya Hasan says the execution means justice has been served.

“My grandfather was killed by … Mollah because he loved this country and supported independence. We are happy that our long wait for justice is now over,” Hasan said.

The 1971 war saw the eastern part of Pakistan break away to become Bangladesh. The government says the Pakistan army and local collaborators killed three million people, raped about 200,000 women and displaced 10 million during the war.

The Jamaat-e-Islami Party opposed independence and its entire leadership stands accused of committing war crimes.

Instituted in 2010, a war crimes tribunal, criticized by the international community and rights groups for being fundamentally flawed, has sentenced eight Jamaat leaders to death or life imprisonment.

Several other politicians, mostly from Jamaat, are still awaiting trial.

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