By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka
Most shops downed their shutters in Dhaka yesterday as Jamaat-e-Islami and its student front Islami Chattra Shibir started a three-day general strike called in protest against death sentence awarded to its party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami for his 1971 war crimes.
Activists of the Islamist party went on rampage in most of the district towns while in the Bangladesh capital, ringed by the troops of Border Guard Bangladesh and elite security outfit Rapid Action Battalion, they adopted just hit-and-run tactics.
A bus was set on fire in Dhaka city while the RAB seized eight abandoned handmade bombs in the capital. The fire service said a parked bus at the city’s Shyampur was set afire at around 2.30pm.
“It was an empty bus and parked. So no one was injured. Two fire-fighting units rushed to spot and put out the fire,” Fire Service Control Room in-charge Ataur Rahman told newsmen.
In the city’s Hazaribagh area, eight handmade bombs were found in front of a house, said RAB-2 Operations Officer Maruf Ahmad.
The Khulna city home of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s paternal cousins, MP Sheikh Helal Uddin and Sheikh Soheil, were attacked on the eve of Jamaat-e-Islami’s strike.
Police said assailants on two motorcycles fired several rounds at the house in Khulna city’s Sher-e-Bangla Road.
Sheikh Soheil, a director of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), was not at home. Four bullet marks were seen on the front gate and a wall.
Sonadanga Model Police Officer-in-Charge (OC) Maruf Ahammed said four policemen in charge of the building’s security have been suspended.
“Five rounds were shot from an alley opposite to the house’s main entrance,” he said.
According to the local ruling Awami League, five masked men on two motorcycles fired at the house on Wednesday night.
“One bullet hit the office on the ground floor, another hit a wall inside, two struck at the gate, and police recovered a stray bullet,” Khulna Metropolitan Jubo League unit’s Joint Secretary Hafez Md Shamim said.
No one was hurt in the firing, and neither Sheikh Sohel nor his other brother Sheikh Rubel was at home during the shooting, he said.
Senior officials of the Khulna Metropolitan Police, including Commissioner Nibash Chandra Majhi, visited the spot.
The house at the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Road was originally built by Sheikh Abu Naser, younger brother of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
His sons, Sheikh Sohel and Sheikh Rubel, currently live in the house.
Their other two brothers, MP Sheikh Helal Uddin and Sheikh Jewel live in Dhaka.
“We have been always a target of the anti-liberation forces. The firing is a consequence of that,” said Sohel.
His father Sheikh Naser was killed on August 15, 1975, when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated with most members of his family.
In Bogra district town, hand-made bombs were hurled at a police car from a procession by Jamaat-e-Islami supporters.
Jamaat supporters threw two bombs at a police patrol car from a procession at the town’s PTI intersection Thursday morning, said Sadar Police Officer-in-Charge Faizur Rahman.
“Police dispersed the group by firing tear-gas shells,” he said.
Activists of the Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir brought out sporadic processions from various parts of the town.
They poured petrol on the roads and set it alight, said police and witnesses.
Earlier, 87 people, including 15 Shibir activists were detained during late-night raids on Wednesday. Three local weapons were recovered, said OC Faizur.
Members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) along with the police were working to secure the town during the strike.
Meanwhile, the police, in a drive, detained Jamaat-e-Islami’s Rajshahi district unit chief Ataur Rahman, from Tekhadia area of the district.
The law enforcers detained Ataur in special drive early yesterday.
Motihar police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Alamgir Hossain said: “Acting on a tip-off, police raided the house of Masum and arrested Ataur at around 2am.”
Police also detained four activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir from Rajshahi town while picketing the area.
The OC said: “The other Shibir activists were arrested from Hadirmor area.”
He said additional police forces were deployed in different important points of the district to avert further untoward situation.
Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami activists clashed with police at Rajshahi city.
The activists took out sudden processions and blocked roads by setting fire.
Police arrested the head of Jamaat’s metropolitan unit Ataur Rahman and six other activists of the party and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir from a pro-shutdown procession at Baghmara.
The activists were demonstrating by setting fire on the streets using petrol
in three points of Rajshahi city. They clashed with police at Dingadoba.
“Jamaat-Shibir activists blocked the Hadir Mor setting fire pouring patrol on the street around 7am. They ran away after RAB members went there,” said Boalia Model Police OC Khandaker Noor Hossain.
At Shalbagan, they put tree trunks on the road to block it and demonstrated there around 8am. They also fled after a police team reached the site.
At Tultuliparha of Dingadoba at the city bypass, they set fire using patrol to block the road at 7:30am.
When police reached the site, the demonstrator started pelting brickbats at them, resulting in a clash with the police.
Police fired several rounds of blank shots to disband the group.
Motihar Police OC Alamgir Hossain said Rajshahi city unit chief of Jamaat, Ataur Rahman, was arrested from his home in the early hours yesterday.
“He was arrested on charges of planning and directing party workers to commit violence.”
Meanwhile, the six arrested at Bagmara were yet to be identified, said OC Abu Obaida Khan.
“They’re all Jamaat-Shibir activists. They were nabbed while planning to stage vandalism from a procession they took out at Bagmara Sadar’s Bhabaniganj.”
Reports of clashes between the Jamaat activists and police from other districts have started reaching Dhaka.
The Jamaat’s second round of shutdown begins early Sunday to dawn on Tuesday.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said she is not worried about the suspected plan by banned militant group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to assassinate her.
“I have nothing to be worried much. Because, I have been living an extended life,” she said adding: “I have come under attacks again and again.”
The premier said while commenting on media reports that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has uncovered a suspected plot by JMB to assassinate Hasina and carry out a coup.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina once again rejected any possibility of early parliamentary elections as demanded by BNP and some other opposition parties.
“An election has been held and the next election will take place on time,” she said while replying to a question made referring to her pre-election speech where she described the January 5 polls as constitutional necessity.
The premier was addressing a press conference on her recent visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The conference was held at her official Gono Bhaban residence.
Criticising the European Union (EU) for its concern over awarding of capital punishment to Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, Sheikh Hasina said the trial and punishment of human rights violators will be held as per the law of the land.
“They always express concern over the rights of those who have violated human rights. . . How will terrorism and militancy be stopped?” she asked.
Sheikh Hasina categorically said terrorism and militancy will have to be uprooted from Bangladesh and human rights will have to be protected. “To do this, the human rights violators will have to be brought to justice as per the provisions existing in the country,” she said.
She said the trial of war criminals is nothing new. “The trial of war criminals after the World War-II is still ongoing. Whether they are 90 years old or 100 years....why they did not stop the trial?”
“Are the people of the country not human beings?” she asked. “They raped, looted, torched and killed intellectuals... everybody knows who was Nizami,” she said.
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