4 die in Hifazat havoc

At least four people lost their lives in the clashes between activists of Hifazat-e Islam, backed by Jamaat-e-Islami, and police in the streets surrounding the Baitul Mukarram in the capital on Sunday.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 5 May 2013, 08:21 AM
Updated : 5 May 2013, 09:13 PM

Paltan, Gulistan, Bijoynagar and Kakrail, which are hardly a mile away from the Hifazat rally taking place at Motijheel commercial hub, have turned into a battle cone as activists of the radical Islamist group are fighting pitched battles with the law enforcers

Police said a helper of a bus they had requisitioned was killed and more than 50 were injured in the clashes. They said two more people died of their injuries later.  (Video)

One of the two was ‘Mamun’, 21 and the other is yet to be identified, Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) Police Camp Inspector Muzzamel Haque told bdnews24.com. (Video)

Kamal Uddin Khan, an official of Desh Insurance Ltd, died of heart complications after being brought to the DMCH, his relative Khandaker Jubayer Raihan told bdnews24.com.

He said Kamal had felt sick after getting stuck in the middle of the clash near Motijheel in the morning.

Police and witnesses said a group of Hifazat activists, fighting the law enforcers on their way to the rally, allegedly vandalised and torched the headquarters of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) at Purana Paltan.

At least 15 crude bombs exploded in front of the ruling Awami League’s headquarters at the Bangabandhu Avenue at around 1:45pm.

Clashes soon erupted at the Bangabandhu Avenue and quickly spread to surrounding areas turning the whole of the Paltan into a battlefield.

Witnesses said the explosions took place when several Hifazat processions were heading towards Motijheel to join the group’s rally.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir has alleged that the activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student affiliate Islami Chhatra Shibir had carried out the attacks on the Awami League headquarters and were engaged in clashes under the guise of the Hifazat supporters.

Statements of the police and witnesses substantiated the claim of the minister.

The violence erupted after authorities permitted the Hifazat to hold its 3pm rally at Shapla Chattar in busy Motijheel earlier in the day. The clearance came amidst the Hifazat's Dhaka blockade that has effectively cut off the capital from most districts since early Sunday.

The Hifazat blockade programme aims to pressure the government into accepting the controversial 13-point charter of demands.
Similar picketing in support of the blockade took place on Demra road, where Hifazat supporters were seen tearing down film posters. “Curbs on obscenity in films’ is one of Hifazat’s key demands.
The Hifazat activists stated moving towards Motijheel rally venue from different gateways to the city including Jatrabarhi, Demra, Uttara and Gabtali after their road blockade until noon.
Clashes ensued when a group of Hifazat activists tried to proceed breaking the police barricade at Baitul Mukarram UCBL Crossing.
The protesters hurled police with brickbats and the law enforcers fired rubber bullets and tear shells. Soon the clashes spread to Baitul Mukarram north gate and Bijoynagar.
The clashes at the Bangabandhu Avenue erupted as around 15 crude bombs exploded in front of the Awami League office. Several people were seen being evacuated from there on vans after the clashes.
A witness named Shahadat Hossain said he saw several attackers wielding small arms. He also heard ‘Naraye Takbir’ slogans from among the attackers, who vandalised at least 15 vehicles.
At one stage, Awami League activists were involved in the clashes that later spilled into Stadium, Rajuk Bhaban, Gulistan and Golap Shah Mazar areas.
Police continued firing rubber bullets and teargas shells to control the situation. A bullet hit Siddiqur Rahman, 28, the helper of a Hanif Paribahan in the face.
Driver of the bus ‘Jewel’ told bdnews24.com that Siddiqur took the bullet standing near the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
He was rushed to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital. Doctor ‘Pratap’ at the hospital said he died of excessive bleeding.
bdnews24.com Jagannath University Correspondent Mobarak Hossain reports from the hospital that 48 of the injured in clashes were admitted there. Quoting doctors, he said roughly 90 percent of the injured were hit by bullets.
The Hifazat activists vandalised the shops on the ground floor of Mukti Bhaban, the headquarters of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), breaking open the gate of the building. They broke the window glasses up to the fourth floor of the building throwing brickbats.
At one stage, police from Paltan intersection started firing rubber bullets and teargas shells on the protesters taking position at Baitul Mukarram north gate. The protesters responded to the police action by hurling brick chips.
Police said one of their members, Piarul Islam, 35, was injured when the attackers set fire to Bijoynagar Traffic Police Box. He was admitted to the burns unit of the DMCH.
As the clashes were continuing in the areas surrounding the Baitul Mukarram, the Home Minister told reporters at the Secretariat: “Contact has been made with Hifazat. They (Hifazat) said those who have created havoc are not their activists… Jamaat-Shibir activists have done it under the guise of Hifazat.”
The sound of teargas shell firing and crude bomb explosions was being heard from the Secretariat when the minister was speaking to journalists.
Asked why Hifazat was given the permission to hold the rally after rejection of their appeal initially, Alamgir said: “They’ve been given the permission as per the Constitution. They’ve resorted to violence though they were support to hold the rally peacefully.”
About the attacks on CPB office, party President Mujahidul Islam Selim said: “It’s normal that the anti-liberation force will have anger against our organisation, which was involved in struggles for democracy and movement for self-rule.”
“They’ve again exposed their fascist characters,” he added.