/ 28 February 2006

Militants to be put to death for Bangladesh bombings

A court sentenced 21 Islamic militants to death on Tuesday for their part in a deadly wave of blasts that saw more than 400 bombs explode almost simultaneously across Bangladesh last year, officials said.

The bombings, claimed by an outlawed Islamic militant group, killed three people and rocked a nation which had previously denied having a serious problem with extremism.

“Judge SKM Anisur Rahman Khan today [Tuesday] sentenced 21 men to death by hanging after they were found guilty of carrying out bomb blasts … on August 17, 2005,” said Amirul Islam, administrative officer at the court in the southwestern Jhenidah district.

Three of the defendants were sentenced in absentia following the three month trial, he said.

“All 21, aged between 20 and 25, are members of the militant group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh [JMB] and they were sentenced under the country’s Explosive Substances Act,” Islam said.

One of the condemned men, Babul Ansari, was employed as a security guard at the Bangladesh Parliament at the time of the attacks, said the court’s prosecutor Motaleb Hossain.

The case was the first successful prosecution in connection with the attacks in which small explosive devices were detonated in almost every town and city in the country, Hossain added.

JMB leaflets were found at the blast sites calling for the imposition of strict Islamic law.

The group has also been blamed for a series of subsequent attacks including several suicide bombings, the first in Bangladesh, which have claimed the lives of 28 people including four suicide bombers.

The government admitted it woke up late to the threat posed by religious extremists and vowed to root out those responsible.

Bangladesh, with a population of 140-million, is the world’s third largest Muslim-majority country. – AFP