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Bangladesh executes six Islamic militants

The militants were behind almost 400 simultaneous blasts that shook this country of 144 million people on August 17, 2005.

world Updated: Mar 30, 2007 15:15 IST

Six Islamic militant leaders, convicted of murdering two judges and accused of masterminding a wave of bomb attacks, were executed in Bangladesh on Friday, officials said.

Authorities in the emergency-ruled country immediately stepped up security following the hangings, with extra police and members of the elite Rapid Action Battalion seen patrolling Dhaka's main streets.

The six included Shaikh Abdur Rahman, the leader of the outlawed Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and his deputy Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai.

"They were hanged in four different jails and their dead bodies were handed over to their families," inspector general of prisons Brigadier Zakir Hassan told the agency.

"They did not show any emotion during the hangings. We informed their relatives and took measures to send their bodies to the village homes."

The Islamists were sentenced to death last year for an attack that killed two judges in November 2005.

Authorities say the group was also behind 400 almost simultaneous blasts that shook this country of 144 million people on August 17, 2005.

The attacks were part of a campaign apparently aimed at forcing Bangladesh to replace its Muslim but secular legal system, which dates from the British colonial period, with traditional Islamic or Sharia law.

At least 28 people were killed and hundreds injured in the attacks, and an ensuing crackdown saw some 1,000 JMB members arrested.

The hangings were carried out more than two weeks before their scheduled dates.

"We maintained total secrecy about the hangings because of security reasons," the national prison chief said.

Bangladesh's national police chief said security has been tightened across the country, which has been under emergency rule since January when political violence between supporters of the rival mainstream parties led to the cancellation of elections.

"We beefed up security across the country immediately after the executions," Nur Mohammad said, adding that raids have also been conducted to prevent any revenge attacks.

"Some militants are still out there and they can launch small-scale attacks. But we don't think that the group is now capable of launching any big-scale attack," he added.

Relatives of the executed militants said they had not been informed ahead of the executions.

"I was taking my breakfast this morning when I heard the siren of an ambulance in our village. It brought the dead body of my brother," said Rafiqul Islam, the elder brother of militant Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai.

"RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) officers accompanied the ambulance and handed over the dead body to us," he told the agency by telephone from the northern Bogra district.

When they were sentenced to die, the militants said they would not appeal, claiming they had acted in the name of Islam.

Four later changed their minds, while the two who did not, Rahman and Islam, sent letters justifying their actions which authorities treated as pleas for clemency.

In the end the appeals were all rejected.

A seventh man was also sentenced to death in absentia over the November 2005 killings and is on the run.

A total of 30 people, including the seven in this case, were sentenced to death over the JMB bombing campaign, while 10 have received life terms of 40 years. Twenty others are serving 20 year sentences.