Violence grips Bangladesh, at least 3 killed in sporadic clashes

At least three persons were killed in sporadic clashes in Bangladesh Monday during a nationwide general strike called by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) to protest their leaders' ongoing trial for 1971 war crimes.

Witnesses said JI activists visibly took a hit and run strategy in Dhaka and several other cities amid a clarion call by rival protestors at Shahbagh Square to defy the strike.

One pedestrian was killed when a minibus overturned as it was chased by JI activists, who also damaged four buses in the capital. The transport operators defied the JI's strike call expressing solidarity with demands for trial of "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 war against Pakistan.

Another death was reported from central Comilla district where JI activists clashed with police.

Witnesses said one person died with bullet injuries after JI protesters went on rampage on the street, prompting police intervention.

The third death was reported from southeastern Cox's Bazar, a stronghold of Jamaat.

The victim was a patient who died when JI activists attacked his ambulance.

Many schools in Dhaka were open though with thin student presence while businesses and major shopping centers remained open as the main shop owners association at a press briefing Sunday said they planned to ignore the call by JI, which was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan.

Visibly shifting from its previous stance, main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) this time declined to extend its "moral support" to the JI strike call.

Bangladesh Parliament Sunday amended the war crimes law to allow the prosecution to try and punish any organisations, including the JI, a significant move that could pave the way for banning the country's largest Islamic party.

On Monday, the amendment received assent from President Zillur Rahman. "He (President Rahman) signed the bill into law... assenting the International Crimes Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2013," a Bangabhaban presidential palace spokesperson told the Press Trust of India.

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