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Four killed in Bangladesh clashes after Islamist leader executed

By Ruma Paul and Serajul Quadir

DHAKA (Reuters) - At least four people were killed in Bangladesh on Friday when supporters of Islamist leader Abdul Quader Mollah vented their fury at his execution for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

The decision to hang Mollah, a senior figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami party that is a key part of the opposition coalition, drew widespread condemnation from political allies and international human rights groups.

But many citizens celebrated the first ever execution of a Bangladesh war criminal, which took place late on Thursday at the Dhaka Central Jail in the capital.

"It is a great gift to me as person, and it is consistent with the spirit of our liberation war," Selina Hossain, a writer whose family was tortured during the conflict, told Reuters.

"It is also a symbolic honour to the souls of three million martyred people."

Mollah, dubbed the "Butcher of Mirpur" in Bangladesh for his part in hundreds of killings 42 years ago, was buried in the early hours of Friday in his home village in the southern district of Faridpur.

In the latest violence, Jamaat supporters set fire to vehicles and houses, looted shops, set off crude bombs and blocked roads in several parts of the country.

Police said two Awami League activists were hacked to death in Satkhira, in the southwest, early on Friday.

One person died in clashes between police and Jamaat supporters in the southern district of Noakhali and a driver was killed after Jamaat protesters chased him down.

Mollah's execution has worsened tensions that were already running high, threatening to cripple Bangladesh's economy, notably its $22-billion garment industry.

There has been almost daily unrest in the impoverished nation of 160 million people since last month's announcement of parliamentary elections on January 5.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling Awami League are determined to go ahead with the vote, but the opposition, led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) head Begum Khaleda Zia, says it will not participate unless an interim government is installed and Hasina steps down.

Senior leaders from the Awami League and BNP-led opposition were expected to meet later on Friday for a third round of talks to break the political deadlock.

(Additional reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White)

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