DHAKA: At least four people were killed and over 100 injured as protesters clashed with police in Dhaka and other cities demanding execution of what they said “atheist bloggers” who waged a nationwide campaign for death penalties for 1971 war criminals.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse the crowds, who are demanding the execution of bloggers they accused of blasphemy visibly being backed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, whose stalwarts were exposed to trial in special tribunals for “crimes against humanity” during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.

The two deaths were reported from western Jhinaidah and northeastern Sylhet, while the other two were reported from northwestern Gaibandha. Violence spread as Dhaka and Chittagong turned into battlefields as protesters attacked police, and damaged or torched shops and vehicles.

In Dhaka the violence broke out outside the Baitul Mukarram national mosque, where the protesters also attacked around a dozen journalists while several hundred people performing their weekly prayers were trapped inside as police tried to thwart the protest by locking the gates.

Doctors at Dhaka’s Medical College Hospital said they treated people with critical wounds caused by rubber bullets.

Newly formed “12 Like Minded Islamic Parties”, apparently backed by JI, took to the street coming out of mosques after Friday prayers in the capital and other cities attacking journalists. Media persons said nearly 20 newsmen were injured while covering the violence.

Earlier this month, a special tribunal convicted JI assistant secretary general Abdul Quader Mollah, of mass killings during the war siding with Pakistani troops and sentenced him to life in prison angering thousands of youngsters who rallied at Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square and enforced a round the clock sit-in vigil.

Youths across the country staged identical demonstration in other major cities but Friday’s violence came a day after Shahbagh youngsters, led by bloggers, returned home after 17 consecutive days of sit-in at Shahbagh Square issuing an ultimatum for banning JI for its 1971 role when the party opposed Bangladesh’s independence.

One of the leading organisers of the Shahbagh protest, a 35-year-old architect and blogger Rajib Haidar was hacked to death while the youths accused JI of murdering their comrade while Islamists launched a campaign portraying him and fellow bloggers “anti-Islamic atheist”, while his family called it a campaign to assassin his character after his death.