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Dhaka Islamist party vows to avenge execution Ex-Bangladesh dictator Ershad led away from home

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 13, (Agencies): An Islamist political party has vowed to deepen the role of Islam in Bangladesh to avenge the execution of a party leader who was hanged for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. Abdul Quader Mollah, 65, was hanged Thursday night in a case that has exacerbated the explosive political divide in Bangladesh, an impoverished country of 160 million. Mollah was a leader of the party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and a key member of the opposition. Opponents of Jamaat-e-Islami say it is a fundamentalist group with no place in a secular country. Bangladesh is predominantly Muslim, but is governed by largely secular laws based on British common law.

The execution sparked violent protests Friday as activists torched homes and businesses belonging to government supporters in a fresh wave of bloodshed ahead of elections next month. At least five people died in the violence. Meanwhile, hundreds of people rejoiced in the streets of the capital, Dhaka, and said justice had been served. In an editorial, Bangladesh’s English-language Daily Star newspaper congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for trying and executing Mollah “40 long years” after he committed his crimes.

A Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Makbul Ahmed, said in a statement late Thursday that “people would take revenge on this killing by establishing Islam in Bangladesh, which is stained with the blood of Abdul Quader Mollah.” “I urge all the people who support the cause of the Islamic movement to show utmost patience to build a strong resistance,” Ahmed said. Jamaat-e-Islami says Mollah’s trial was politically motivated and an attempt to eliminate Islamic parties. Those who support the execution say he was hanged for serious crimes, and that the punishment had nothing to do with Islam.

In another development, Bangladesh’s former military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad was led away from his home by security forces early Friday, days after he pulled his party out of next month’s elections. A senior officer of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said the 83-year-old was only being taken for a check-up, but a top aide said Ershad had been arrested. Video footage aired by Bangladesh’s Channel 24 network showed scores of his supporters trying to prevent the SUV carrying Ershad from driving away from the upmarket Baridhara suburb of Dhaka, some of them weeping. Colonel Kismat Hayat, an RAB commander, said Ershad had been taken at his own request. “He asked us to take him to the Combined Military Hospital for medical check-up,” Hayat told AFP

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