Bangladesh policeman shot dead in clashes with Islamists

A policeman was killed early Sunday in a gunfight with Islamists in a remote southern village, as violence over war crime convictions of Islamic leaders continued to mount in Bangladesh. Police said a constable was hit by a bullet after around 1,000 supporters of the country's largest Islamic part, Jamaat-e-Islami, attacked police entering a village in Khulna district and tried to detain a Jamaat activist on charges of violence.
"They attacked us with firearms. We also fired from shotguns. Constable Mofizur Rahman was hit by a bullet and died after we took him to a hospital," inspector Mominur Rahman told AFP, adding several policemen were also injured.
The killing raised the death toll to 85, including eight policemen, in clashes with Islamists since a Bangladesh tribunal announced its first war crimes verdict on January 21.
Sixty-nine of the dead -- most of them Jamaat members shot by police -- have been killed since Delwar Hossain Sayedee, the vice-president of Jamaat, was sentenced to death on February 28.
Three convictions by the state-appointed tribunal have triggered the worst violence in the impoverished country since independence, hitting economic growth and raising concern over political stability.
The war crimes proceedings against a dozen leaders from Jamaat and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have opened old wounds and divided the nation, with the opposition accusing the government of staging a witch-hunt.
The government, which says the 1971 war claimed three million lives, rejects the claims and accuses Jamaat leaders of being part of pro-Pakistani militias blamed for much of the carnage during the war.
Independent estimates put the war death toll much lower.


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