Bangladesh Islamist war criminal Ghulam Azam dead at 91

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladeshi war criminal Ghulam Azam died on Thursday aged 91, just over a year after he was sentenced to 90 years in prison for masterminding atrocities during the country's 1971 independence war.

Azam was the wartime head of Jamaat-e-Islami - the country's largest Islamist party - and latterly its spiritual leader.

During his trial, prosecutors compared him to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Azam died of a heart attack while at a hospital in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, director of the clinic Abdul Majid Bhuiyan told reporters.

"He died of cardiac arrest at 10.10 pm today," the director said.

Azam's son, Mr Abdullahel Azmi, told AFP earlier on Thursday that his condition had deteriorated, prompting doctors to put him on life support.

"He was suffering from old age complications. He also did not get adequate care in the hospital," his lawyer, Tajul Islam, said.

Mr Islam said Azam would be buried in a family graveyard in Dhaka after a funeral, expected to be held on Friday.

In July 2013, a special war court set up by the country's secular government found Azam guilty of five charges of planning, conspiracy, incitement, complicity and murder during the war against Pakistan.

He was described as a "lighthouse" who guided all war criminals and the "architect" of pro-Pakistani militias which committed many atrocities during the war, in which three million people were killed.

When India intervened at the end of the nine-month war in 1971, the militias killed dozens of professors, playwrights, filmmakers, doctors and journalists.

Many of the bodies were found a few days after the war at a marsh outside Dhaka, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs.