Islamists' strike hits Bangladesh over gruesome murder

Islamists' strike hits Bangladesh over gruesome murder
File photo of Dhaka. Streets were quiet after bus and lorry services joined in the strike.

DHAKA - Transport services in Bangladesh ground to a halt on Sunday as Islamists enforced a nationwide strike to protest at the murder of a television star who presented popular Islamic shows.

Normally congested roads in the capital and other cities were largely deserted as operators of inter-regional bus and lorry services accepted Islamists' demands for the eight-hour strike starting early morning.

Islamic Chhatra Sena, a student wing of the politically moderate Islamic Front, called the strike to demand police arrest the killers of Sheikh Nurul Islam Faruqi.

Faruqi, 60, who was also chief cleric of a Dhaka mosque, was found tied to a chair with his throat slit at his home in the capital last Wednesday.

Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP that three people including a woman have been arrested, but a motive for the killing was so far unclear.

Local dailies speculated Faruqi was targeted by hardliners because he used his religious programmes to speak out against Islamist militant groups.

Faruqi hosted two popular Islamic television programmes, including "Kafela" which explored sacred Islamic sites around the world and another that tackled various Islamic issues.

In the last decade Islamic militants in Bangladesh have killed more than 100 people including secular and cultural activists and bloggers who were seen as critical of Islam.

They have also bombed shrines and other religious places that they deemed un-Islamic.

Last year six people including a 60-year-old man who called himself a sufi master were slaughtered at their home in similar fashion to Faruqi. Police have not yet solved those cases.

Rahman said police stepped up security in key places in Dhaka on Sunday but the strike was peaceful with protesters holding small marches in cities and towns in the country.

"There was no report of any clashes," he added.

In Chittagong, the second largest city and an Islamist stronghold, police intervened after a train packed with more than 2,000 passengers was held up at a station for an hour by Islamist protesters enforcing the strike.

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