At least 260 people, 54 of them policemen, were injured as Jamaat-Shibir men fought pitched battles with law enforcers in Dhaka and 10 other districts in the country yesterday.
The clashes began as police intercepted the processions that the Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir activists brought out in the capital and elsewhere, demanding the immediate release of Jamaat leaders, including the nine arrested on war crimes charges.
The other districts where the Jamaat-Shibir men clashed with the police are Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Bogra, Sirajganj, Noakhali, Moulvibazar, Chittagong, Narail, Kushtia and Khulna.
Police said these attacks on the law enforcers were pre-planned and were aimed at destabilising law and order.
On Sunday, the Jamaat, a key ally of the main opposition BNP, announced a weeklong protest programme across the country, which was supposed begin today. Interestingly, the Jamaat-Shibir supporters took to the streets yesterday.
In Dhaka, at least 100 people, including 22 policemen, were wounded as the Jamaat-Shibir supporters fought with the law enforcers, turning Motijheel, Dilkusha, Paltan, Dainik Bangla and Topkhana Road areas into a virtual battleground, police and witnesses said.
The demonstrators also vandalised some 50 vehicles, torched three motorbikes, a tempo of police and several roadside shops, halting traffic on all the adjoining roads for around two hours since around 4:00pm, police said.
Police fired more than 150 teargas canisters and charged batons to disperse the agitators, who responded by throwing brickbats.
Across the country, police arrested around 120 Jamaat-Shibir men on charges of assaulting the law enforcers. Of them, 33 were arrested in the capital.
Shibir in a written statement, however, said about 500 of their leaders and activists were injured in the clashes while 300 were picked up. The statement, signed by publicity secretary Abu Saleh Mohammad Yahya, also condemned the "police attack on and arrest of Jamaat men across the country".
Witnesses said the clash in the capital began when some 600 Jamaat and Shibir leaders and activists brought out a procession at Motijheel after Asar prayers, demanding that the government set free the detained Jamaat leaders, including its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.
The Jamaat-Shibir men in their dozens joined the procession coming out of different lanes in the area. Many were standing at tea stalls and bus stops posing as customers or commuters, and later swooped on the police when the clash began, added the witnesses.
As the procession came near Dainik Bangla intersection police intercepted it, prompting the clash. The Jamaat-Shibir men, equipped with sticks and brick chips, attacked the law enforcers who responded by charging batons and firing teargas shells.
Anwar Hossain, deputy commissioner of police (Motijheel division), told The Daily Star that 22 police personnel were injured in the attack by the Jamaat-Shibir activists.
At least 13 platoons of additional police were deployed to bring the situation under control, said Syed Nurul Islam, deputy commissioner of police (Ramna division).
In the 10 other districts, at least 160 people, 32 of them law enforcers, were injured in the running battles between the police and Jamaat-Shibir supporters, report our district correspondents.
Police arrested at least 86 Jamaat-Shibir men from those districts.