At least five people have been killed and scores injured in clashes between Islamist activists and security officers in Bangladesh on Friday, police said.
Police said that three of the deaths occurred in northern Chapai Nawabganj District after officers fired their guns in self-defence as they were being attacked by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, an opposition Islamist political party.
District Police Chief Bashir Ahmed said the attack took place as officers were attempting to arrest individuals who participated in a wave of vandalism following the sentencing of an Islamist leader for war crimes last month.
“We were forced to shoot in self-defence after at least 17 policemen were injured in Friday’s attacks,” he said, adding that they detained 25 people for their alleged involvement in attacks on a power plant and other public facilities in the district on March 1.
Two more people were killed in similar clashes in Sirajganj district, some 195 kilometers north-west of Dhaka, Police Inspector Faruk Ahme said.
The government deployed additional forces, including members of the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh, in the northern districts to help halt the escalating violence.
Bangladesh has experienced an outbreak of violence following the February 28 sentencing of an Islamist leader to death for war crimes during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
At least 95 people were killed after Delawar Hossai Sayedee - vice president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party - was convicted of murder, rape, looting and the forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam during the war that left an estimated 3 million people dead.
The opposition criticized the trial as being politically motivated.