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Bangladesh Islamist group, allies strike terror
A day after the nation paid tribute to the martyrs of the Language Movement at Shaheed Minars on Amar Ekushey, Jamaat-Shibir men vandalise the Shaheed Minar on Trunk Road in Feni. In Dhaka, they, blending in with the crowd of devotees and activists of other Islamist parties, brutally attacked cops, top right, and journalists, bottom right, who were on duty. Photo by Banglar Chokh/The Daily Star
Publication Date : 23-02-2013
In a countrywide reign of terror, Jamaat-e-Islami and its sympathisers yesterday attacked law enforcers and journalists in Bangladesh, burned the national flag and vandalised Shaheed Minars to counter the mass demand for capital punishment to 1971 war criminals.
They chose mosques as gathering points and launched attacks with handmade bombs, guns, and sticks, leaving at least four persons killed and nearly 1,000 people including 14 journalists wounded.
In what appears to be the culmination of a cleverly orchestrated smear campaign, the Jamaat and its adherents branded the Shahbagh protesters as atheists and tried to use Juma prayers to whip up religious sentiments against them.
Gonojagoron Manchas -- from where demands are being made for capital punishment to war criminals -- became their targets of vandalism in Chittagong, Feni, Chandpur, Rajshahi, Bogra, Sirajganj, Joypurhat, Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Pabna.
Jamaat and its student body Islami Chhatra Shibir carried out the attacks under the banner of 12 Islamist parties.
They chanted slogans against the organisers of the Shahbagh movement, which has been calling for death penalty for all war criminals and a ban on Jamaat-Shibir.
Jamaat and some like-minded radical Islamist parties had earlier announced nationwide demonstrations after yesterday's Juma prayers for punishment to the bloggers.
They torched the national flag in Chandpur and Bogra, and vandalised Shaheed Minars in Feni and Sylhet, and the Awami League office in Kurigram. They attacked law enforcers in other districts, including Jhenidah, Patuakhali, Pabna and Joypurhat.
Police fired hundreds of teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the attackers. Dozens of people, including journalists, were hit by bullets during the clashes.
Of the four dead, two were killed in Gaibandha, one in Sylhet and another in Jhenidah. The person killed during clashes in Jhenidah was identified as Abdus Salam, a madrasa teacher.
Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said Jamaat-Shibir launched the attacks in a planned way. He said none of the attackers would be spared.
Police have detained 172 attackers in Dhaka and several hundred more in other districts. Border Guard Bangladesh personnel have been deployed in Chittagong and Sylhet to ward off further violence.
Eight Islamist parties led by Khelafat Andolon yesterday called a dawn-to-dusk hartal for tomorrow and countrywide demonstrations for Monday to protest the police attack on them and for punishment to Shahbagh protesters.
In the capital, Jamaat activists took position inside the Baitul Mukarram national mosque much before the Juma prayers and started hurling brickbats at the law enforcers. They also attacked the journalists there.
At the mosque, members of Jamaat and like-minded parties snatched the microphone from the Imam and started chanting provocative slogans. They also barred the Khatib from delivering Khutba, said witnesses.
The fanatics also circulated copies of the offensive advertisements that Hefazat-e-Islam took out in three national dailies recently to stir up religious sentiments against the Shahbagh youths.
After prayers, around 1:45pm, they brought out a militant procession and started marching towards Shahbagh. Obstructed near Paltan crossing, they got into pitched battles with the law enforcers.
The clashes soon spread to other parts of the city. Police fired bullets and teargas shells from armoured vehicles to disperse the marchers.
During the mayhem, Jamaat activists beat up camerapersons of different TV channels, photographers of several newspapers and some reporters of both electronic and print media.
They vandalised dozens of vehicles. Traffic on the roads near Baitul Mukarram remained suspended for hours following the clashes.
As police broke up the demonstrators in Jatiya Press Club, Matsya Bhaban and Paltan areas, Jamaat-Shibir activists got back to the national mosque premises and started throwing bombs and brickbats at police.
They even set fire to prayer mats inside the mosque, said witnesses.
Police and Rab personnel kept the mosque surrounded for an hour and asked those inside to come out peacefully.
A group of ruling party men gathered in front of Awami League's central office on the Bangabandhu Avenue and brought out a procession. They chased some Jamaat-Shibir men out of the area.
The situation there became normal after Asr prayers.
On Thursday, the government decided to allow Islamist parties to bring out peaceful processions.
In Rajshahi city, Jamaat-Shibir activists clashed with police at different points, leaving around 50 people, including 10 policemen, injured.
In Bogra, they launched attacks on police prompting the law enforcers to fire at least 200 shots and teargas shells. More than 50 people, including nine policemen, were wounded in the clashes.
More than 70 people were injured in clashes in Sylhet. At least 20 of them were hit by bullets.
In Patuakhali, at least 35 people, including three policemen, were injured in clashes.
Jamaat men attacked Dhaka University's Ekushey and Shahidullah halls around 2:00pm, leaving at least 15 students injured.
The attackers also vandalised the office of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh on the DU campus.
Some 30 attackers gathered near the main gates of the two dormitories and started pelting stones and brickbats at the students returning to the dormitories after the Juma prayers, witnesses said.
Two of the injured were identified as Hridoy, a first-year student of information technology, and Al Amin, a second-year student of chemistry.
Hearing the news, students came out of the dormitories and retaliated by pelting brickbats and stones at the attackers.
In the meantime, another group of religious fanatics joined the attackers. However, they all fled the scene after police reached there and lobbed teargas canisters.
The DU students captured four attackers and handed them over to police.
Near the Kataban mosque gate around 1:45pm, a group of Shibir men attacked police after they were barred from bringing out a procession.
Law enforcers fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters to disperse them.
Police arrested Hefazat-e-Islam leader Sheikh Nur-e-Alam Hamidi after he hit Sirajul Islam, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh police station, in the face. Hamidi earlier arrived in the capital from Srimangal.
One of his followers tried to snatch firearms from a cop.
Police detained three Hefazat-e-Islam activists.
Later, students and locals brought out a procession in the area, chanting anti-Jamaat slogans.
Jamaat activists under the banner of "Sachetan Jagrata Muslim Janata" brought out a procession from Tejturi Bazar mosque in Karwan Bazar around 2:00pm.
As they reached near the Sonargaon intersection, police and Rab personnel fired several rounds of blank shots, forcing them to disperse.
Meanwhile in Old Dhaka, constable Abdul Jalil was hit by a bullet in his left foot, as several hundred Jamaat activists attacked police on Nawabpur Road around 2:15pm. Two other cops were also injured.
The religious extremists swooped on police when intercepted on their way to the national mosque. They also vandalised several roadside shops.
Police fired shots and teargas shells to disperse the attackers.
Jamaat activists also beat up two devotees in front of Bangabazar Market around 2:15pm after the two asked them not to bring out any procession in the area. Later, police swung into action and dispersed them.
Of those injured in yesterday's violence in the capital, at least 30 people, including four journalists and a policeman, were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Most of them were hit by splinters during clashes in Baitul Mukarram, Press Club, Ananda Bazar, Kataban and Nawabpur areas.
During the Juma prayers at Baitul Aman Jam-e Mosque in Mirpur-12, the imam described the Shahbagh movement organisers as atheists. He also called upon the devotees to launch a counter movement.
Locals said the imam along with his followers brought out a procession soon after the prayers.