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22 February 2024

Dozen injured in Bangladesh war crimes protest


Clashes rocked the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka's main commercial district on Wednesday as police battled with Islamist protesters demanding a halt to the country's war crimes trials.

At least a dozen people were injured by rubber bullets during the clashes, Dhaka Medical College emergency officer Robiul, who uses one name, told AFP.

Police and witnesses said the clashes at Motijheel commercial area, home to top banks, the main stock market and insurers, began after the supporters of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami tried to hold marches.

They torched a bus and attacked vehicles with police reacting by firing rubber bullets, witnesses said.

Television footage showed police in armoured vehicles and wielding fire-arms chasing protesters.

"At least 100 people have been arrested," sub-inspector Rafiqul Islam told AFP.

The violence was the latest to hit the Bangladesh capital. On Tuesday, more than a dozen people were injured, including the editor of a leading daily, in similar clashes between police and protesters.

Demonstrations over the trials have left seven people dead since last month.

The protesters have been demanding a halt to the trials of Jamaat leaders for crimes including genocide and rape they are alleged to have committed during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

A senior Jamaat leader was sentenced to life imprisonment last week for mass murder.

Eight other Jamaat officials, including its leader and deputy leader, are also being tried along with two officials of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The opposition has called the trials politically-motivated and part of a wider vendetta against their leaders.

The government says the trials are needed to heal the wounds of the nine-month war in which it says three million people were killed, many by pro-Pakistani militia whose members allegedly included Jamaat officials.

Independent estimates put the figure much lower.