DHAKA: Bangladesh Sunday hanged two top opposition leaders for war crimes during the independence conflict and strengthened security nationwide over fears the executions could spark fresh unrest.
Thousands of extra police and border guards were deployed in Dhaka and other major cities and towns on the eve of a general strike on Monday called to protest against the executions.
Supporters of the ruling Awami League meanwhile greeted the executions of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury by holding street parties and doling out sweets to children.
Bangladesh has been roiled by violence for much of the last three years since a domestic tribunal began delivering its verdicts on opposition figures accused of orchestrating massacres during the 1971 war.
Islamabad on Sunday branded the tribunal’s trials flawed, and called for reconciliation over the nine-month war which pitted Pakistani forces and allied militias against Bangladeshi freedom fighters.
“Pakistan is deeply disturbed at this development,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement in reaction to the executions.
A total of 18 people have been convicted but only two had been sent to the gallows before Mujahid and Chowdhury were hanged at Dhaka’s Central Prison shortly before 1:00am.
While the other three were members of the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Chowdhury was a senior figure in the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Jamaat, banned from contesting the 2014 general election, said the executions were part of a strategy “aimed at eliminating” its leadership.
The BNP also accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of presiding over a politically-motivated killing, which was carried out only hours after BNP leader Khaleda Zia returned from a lengthy stay in London.
Some of the tightest security measures were in force in the home towns of the two executed men, whose funerals were held on Sunday morning.
“We’ve stepped up security across the country to prevent any violence, including on the roads along which the bodies were taken,” police spokesman Munstashirul Islam told AFP.