DHAKA: Thousands of student activists from Bangladesh's largest religious party clashed with police on Monday, hurling dozens of petrol bombs to protest the trials of their leaders for alleged war crimes.
Scores of people including policemen were injured as violence flared in at least four major cities in the country, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the stick-wielding protesters, officials told AFP.
In Dhaka, more than 3,000 protesters from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party attacked police with bombs and bricks, turning the city's main commercial district into a battlefield.
"At least 25 police officers were injured and 15 vehicles were smashed and three were torched," police officer Moktar Hossain said, adding that 55 people were arrested after the home minister ordered action be taken.
National police chief Hasan Mahmud told reporters after visiting injured police officers at a Dhaka hospital that the protesters tossed at least 50 bombs during the clashes.
In northwestern Rajshahi city, three policemen were injured after up to 500 Jamaat activists threw 14 petrol bombs at officers, local police chief Abdus Sobhan said.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters, he added.
There were also clashes in the country's port city of Chittagong that left six people critically injured by rubber bullets, police said.
The violence came just a week after an official from the opposition JI party was sentenced to death for genocide by a court set up to try war crime suspects from Bangladesh's 1971 liberation conflict.
The war crimes tribunal, which is accused by the opposition of holding false and politically motivated trials, is expected to deliver a verdict on Jamaat's fourth-highest official later this week.
Eight other top JI figures, including its leader and deputy leader, are also being tried by the tribunal.
Rights groups have questioned the fairness of the hearings, saying the laws and procedures under which the opposition leaders are being tried fall short of international standards.
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