DHAKA • Bangladesh has strengthened security nationwide after hanging two top opposition leaders for war crimes during the 1971 war to break away from Pakistan .
Thousands of extra police and border guards were deployed in Dhaka and other major cities and towns yesterday on the eve of a general strike called to protest against the executions.
Supporters of the ruling Awami League meanwhile greeted the executions of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury by holding street parties and doling out sweets to children.
Bangladesh has been roiled by violence for much of the last three years since a domestic tribunal began delivering its verdicts on opposition figures accused of orchestrating massacres during the 1971 war.
A total of 18 people have been convicted but only two had been sent to the gallows before Mujahid and Chowdhury were hanged shortly before 1am yesterday.
While the other three were members of the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Chowdhury was a senior figure in the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Jamaat, banned from contesting last year's general election, said the executions were part of a strategy "aimed at eliminating" its leadership. The BNP also accused Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of presiding over a politically motivated killing, which was carried out only hours after BNP leader Khaleda Zia returned from a lengthy stay in London.
Some of the tightest security measures were in force in the hometowns of the two executed men, whose funerals were held yesterday morning.
Hundreds of police were deployed outside the central city of Faridpur, where Mujahid was buried soon after daybreak. Reinforcements were also sent to Chowdhury's hometown of Raojan in the south-east.
Mujahid, 67, Jamaat's official No. 2, was sentenced for war crimes such as the killing of top intellectuals. Chowdhury, 66, was convicted over atrocities including genocide.
Although international rights groups have criticised the trials as unfair, the government says they are vital for Bangladesh to confront its traumatic birth.
Relatives of war victims celebrated the hangings.
But both men's families said they maintained their innocence to the end, denying they sought clemency in what would have amounted to an admission of guilt.