13 more killed in Bangladesh clashes

Execution of top Islamic leader has sparked protests across country

Thirteen more people were killed on Sunday and overnight Saturday in Bangladesh in continuing protests sparked by the execution of a top Islamist leader, as the prime minister warned of a crackdown.

Police said they opened fire after Islamist supporters torched houses and fought street battles with them during a third day of unrest over the hanging of Abdul Quader Molla for mass murder during the 1971 war of independence.

Six people were killed on Sunday, including four in the northern town of Patgram, and another seven died elsewhere overnight, police said.

The deaths occurred as Islamist supporters enforced a nationwide strike over the execution of Molla, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

"Police fired rifles after Jamaat protesters torched at least 20 houses belonging to ruling party supporters," government administrator Habibur Rahman told AFP of the violence in Patgram.

"We have banned protests and gatherings in the area to prevent further violence."

Molla's execution on Thursday night triggered fresh violence in the impoverished country, already reeling from political unrest in the build-up to a deeply divisive national election scheduled for January 5.

Twenty-five people are now known to have died and dozens more have been injured in the clashes since Thursday between outraged Jamaat activists and police and between the activists and supporters of the ruling Awami League.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina warned of strong action against the rioters, saying "We have shown enough patience. We will not tolerate any more."

"People of the country know how to reply to these atrocities (the latest violence), we (government) also know how to respond to, control you (the rioters)," she told a rally late on Saturday to commemorate those killed in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Molla, 65, became the first person to be executed for his role in that war. Jamaat called the hanging a "political murder" and said it would avenge it.

Convicted of rape, mass murderMolla had been found guilty in February by a much-criticised domestic tribunal of having been a leader of a pro-Pakistan militia that fought against the country's independence and killed some of Bangladesh's top professors, doctors, writers and journalists.

He was convicted of rape, murder and mass murder, including the killing of more than 350 unarmed civilians. Prosecutors called him the "Butcher of Mirpur", a Dhaka suburb where he committed most of the atrocities.

Molla was one of five condemned to death by the International Crimes Tribunal, sentences which the opposition says are aimed at eradicating its leaders.

The sentences have triggered riots and plunged the country into its worst violence since independence. Some 255 people have been killed in street protests since January, when the first verdicts were handed down.

During Sunday's violence in Patgram, three Jamaat protesters including the head of its  regional student wing were shot dead while protesters hacked to death a ruling party supporter, Rahman said.

In the northern district of Joypurhat a van driver was killed during clashes between police and Jamaat protesters. A ruling party student activist was hacked to death in the southern coastal town of Laxmipur, police officials told AFP.

Of the seven killed overnight, police said three died in the southern town of Companyganj, two in the northern town of Ramganj and one each in Narayanganj, outside the capital, and in Laxmipur.

At Companyganj, an opposition bastion, police fired rifles to disperse at least 8,000 rampaging Jamaat supporters who torched four government offices and attacked officers with crude bombs and guns, a senior police officer said.

In Ramganj, activists of Jamaat and its principal ally, the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, attacked a convoy of ruling party lawmakers, leaving two people dead, sub-inspector Ershadul Alam told AFP.

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