As violent clashes between Jamaat-e-Islami supporters and police continued across Bangladesh and the death toll climbed to 44 including five policemen, the Jamaat and its students wing, Islami Chatra Shibir, called for a two-day nationwide shutdown from March 3.

The Jamaat, a staunch ally of the main opposition BNP, intensified its nationwide protests hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 sentenced its top policymaker, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, to death for crimes against humanity including genocide, murder, rape, arson, loot and persecution during the liberation war in 1971. The BNP, which has been silent about the war crimes verdict and its ally’s violent protests, has condemned “police brutality”.

Meanwhile, the young activists, who had called for the February Shabagh protests demanding death penalty to Jamaat leaders, have vowed to resist the hartal. They have initiated a peaceful movement that aims to spread awareness among youths about Bangladesh’s “secular national spirit”.

Militant activists of the Jamaat attacked temples and houses belonging to Hindus at Noakhali’s Begumganj. Police and paramilitary forces said they were attacked by Jamaat activists who used bombs and sometimes firearms to target them and ruling party supporters. The law enforcers said they initially retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets but had to open fire in some places to control the situation. Section 144 has been imposed in several northern headquarters following the clashes.