The leaders and activists of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh turned violent yesterday, attacking offices and vandalising buses and trains in some parts of the country as they tried to enforce their general strike.
The Islamist group enforced the nationwide strike protesting over the deaths of its activists in Chattogram and Brahmanbaria, and Bangladesh visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though two senior leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam called for extending the strike on Sunday morning, the organisation's Secretary General Nurul Islam later said they will not extend it further, but will hold a protest rally on 2 April instead.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal the same day warned that the government will get tough with the perpetrators of crime. "Stern action will be taken if an act of sabotage like that in Brahmanbaria is carried out further," he told the media at the secretariat.
The law enforcement agencies are also watching very closely the regions inhabited by the Hefazat-e-Islam activists in order to maintain law and order, police sources have said.
On the third day of their protests, Brahmanbaria remained a hotbed of daylong violence ranging from attacks on a police station, bank branch, Zila Parishad, municipality office and press club to defacing Bangabandhu's mural and ransacking Awami League party office.
Two strike supporters were killed and dozens injured after they clashed with police and BGB personnel in Brahmanbaria.
Hefazat activists had blocked Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet highways and set fire on tyres in the Jatrabari area of Dhaka city. They clashed with police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) when law enforcers tried to disperse them from the road.
Islami Andolan Bangladesh joined up with the Hefazat's protest procession carrying sticks.
Brahmanbaria a hotspot
In Brahmanbaria, Hefazat men went berserk and attacked a number of government and private offices during the strike yesterday.
Strike supporters vandalised and set fire to Khatihata highway police station in Brahmanbaria's Sarail upazila, said Officer-in-Charge of the police station Gazi Shakhawat Hossain.
They clashed with the police and BGB personnel, resulting in two of their men being killed and dozens injured.
Alamin, 19, son of one Shafi Ali, was injured in a clash in Sarail Upazila's Khatihata and died at the Brahmanbaria General Hospital. Besides, another Hefazat activist who had sustained injuries during Saturdays clash died on Sunday.
"Some injured people were brought to the hospital from morning to afternoon. Two of them died here. There are injury marks on their bodies," said Dr Md Shawkat Hossain, head of Brahmanbaria General Hospital.
Earlier, picketers attacked the Brahmanbaria branch of Bank Asia during the strike. "More than one hundred picketers suddenly, around 11am, started hurling brick chips at our branch," said branch manager Gobinda Kumar Biswas.
The attackers also damaged Bangabandhu's mural in front of the bank.
Earlier on Saturday, Hefazat men held a rally at Nandanpur Bazar, protesting against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Friday's killing of Hefazat activists in Chattogram.
At least five of the protesters were killed in clashes with police and BGB personnel on Saturday.
7 vehicles torched in Dhaka, Rajshahi
Hefazat supporters torched at least seven vehicles and set on fire in some areas of the capital and Rajshahi since Sunday morning.
Two trucks, a bus and a covered van were torched in the capital's Kachpur under Signboard area.
Paltan police on Saturday night filed a case against hundreds of unnamed protesters over Friday's clash in Dhaka. According to the case's FIR, police shot around 1,100 rubber bullets, 43 tear gas shells during the incident.
Meanwhile, the overall situation is almost normal in Chattogram. Garment factories were open in different parts of the port city, including in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone. Besides, Chittagong Port activities remained normal.
Hefazat-e-Islam activists attacked the TV Journalists' Forum office at Begumganj upazila in Noakhali and left four journalists injured.
The injured were identified as Manik Bhuiyan of Asian Television, Mizanur Rahman of Ekattor Television, Eyakub Nabi and camera person Monir Hossain of Bangla TV.
Four journalists were injured as picketers hurled brick chips at them and two motorcycles were vandalised during the attack.
Hefazat called the strike on Friday in protest of police action that left four people dead in Chattogram and one in Brahmanbaria when their activists clashed with police during demonstrations.
Later on Saturday, five more Hefazat activists were killed and dozens injured as they clashed with police and BGB members in Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila, sources confirmed, adding that another two died in the city later.
Hefazat and some other Islamist groups have been holding demonstrations in Dhaka, Chattogram, Brahmanbaria and some other districts for the last few days against Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh.