DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Protesters clashed with police for a second day Friday as the death toll rose to at least 44 from violence triggered by a death sentence given to an Islamic party leader for crimes linked to Bangladesh's 1971 independence war, police said.
The latest fighting broke out in northern Gainbandha and Chapainawabganj districts, killing two people, police officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
At least 42 people were killed Thursday in rioting triggered by the death sentence given to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a top leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamic party.
Jamaat, a key ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, campaigned against independence from Pakistan, but denies it was behind any atrocities.
In Dhaka, dozens of Jamaat supporters smashed several vehicles in central Malibagh district on Friday, witnesses said. Baton-wielding police dispersed the protesters.
Jamaat called for protests after Friday's Islamic prayers, and authorities responded by dispatching thousands of police and paramilitary troops in Dhaka.
Jamaat urged its supporters to converge on mosques to offer a special mass prayer for those killed during the violence Thursday. Private Ekattor TV reported that Jamaat supporters set up roadblocks in parts of the country, cutting off travel.
"We must stay alert. Jamaat and its allies are trying to plunge the nation into anarchy," Junior Law Minister Quamrul Islam said. "We will not allow them to destroy democracy."
Sayedee was sentenced to death for mass killings, rape and atrocities allegedly committed during the bloody nine-month independence war more than 40 years ago. A teacher at an Islamic seminary school at the time, he is the third defendant to be convicted of war crimes by a special tribunal set up in 2010.
His lawyer, Abdur Razzak, rejected the verdict as politically motivated. He said his client will appeal to the Supreme Court.