Security personnel block a road outside the Kashimpur jail during the execution of three Islamists in Dhaka. Photo: Reuters/Stringer
Security personnel block a road outside the Kashimpur jail during the execution of three Islamists in Dhaka. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

Bangladeshi villagers buried the leader of a banned Islamist extremist outfit and two of his aides early Thursday, hours after they were hanged for a 2004 grenade attack on the British ambassador.

The explosion at a 14th century Sufi shrine in the northeastern city of Sylhet killed three people and injured the British high commissioner.

Mufti Abdul Hannan, the head of Harkat Ul Jihad Al Islami and his two HuJI associates were sentenced to death in 2008 over the carnage, with Bangladesh’s highest court upholding the sentences last month.

HuJI was the first Islamist militant outfit to emerge in Bangladesh, and rose to prominence as Hannan escalated its deadly operations.

All three sought clemency from the Bangladesh president in a last-ditch attempt to commute the execution orders to life sentences, but he rejected their pleas.

Authorities hanged Hannan and one of his aides Sharif Shahedul Islam at a high security prison outside Dhaka at 10pm (1600 GMT) on Wednesday. Another associate, Delwar Hossain, was executed at a jail in Sylhet.

Their bodies were then taken back to their villages, where they were buried amid tight security, police said.

“Hannan was buried in his village at around 5.45am after a funeral prayer attended by 15 to 20 of his relatives,” local police chief Kamrul Faruq told AFP.

“We’ve stepped up security to prevent any violence,” he said, adding the funeral passed off peacefully.

He said Hannan was a “hated figure” even in his village due to his roles in a series of deadly blasts and two attempts on the life of then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, who also comes from the same district.

Hannan, 60, was a madrassa teacher who studied in India and Pakistan and fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan before returning to join HuJI.

Prosecutors said Hannan had headed HuJI since the late 1990s, masterminding deadly attacks on a church, secular gatherings, and mosques used by Islam’s minority sects.

In August 2004, in one of the country’s deadliest extremist attacks, he masterminded the blasts at a political rally of Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, outside her party office in central Dhaka.

Hasina narrowly survived what she said was an assassination attempt. At least 22 people were killed.

By the time Hannan was arrested in late 2005, more than 100 people had been killed in attacks he orchestrated across the Muslim-majority nation.

Tensions in the moderate Muslim country have been running high in recent weeks following a resurgence of extremist attacks, at least three of which have been claimed by the Islamic State group.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS have claimed dozens of attacks in recent years, but Hasina’s secular government insists local groups are to blame.

Police have arrested scores of suspected extremists and killed more than 60 people since an attack on a Dhaka cafe last year in which 22 people were killed, many of them foreign hostages.

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