Bangladesh sentences five Islamist militants to death

DHAKA - A court in Bangladesh Wednesday sentenced five militants from a banned Islamist group to death for killing a prosecutor nearly eight years ago, police said.

The five men, two of whom were tried in absentia, shot and killed prosecutor Haider Hossain in 2007 as he left a mosque after evening prayers.

Hossain was targeted shortly after six leaders of the outlawed Islamist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were executed after being convicted for murder in a case that he had prosecuted.

The group's founder and supreme leader Shaikh Abdur Rahman was among those executed.

"They killed Hossain to exact revenge over the executions," government lawyer Golam Rasul told AFP.

The judge at the court in the southern district of Jhalakathi ordered that all five defendants be hanged, police inspector A.K.M Humayun Kabir said.

The JMB was formed in late 1990s with a mission to establish a sharia state in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

It carried out a series of bomb attacks that left 28 people dead and mostly targeted the country's courts.

The then Islamist-allied government led by current opposition leader Khaleda Zia initially brushed off the danger of Islamist militants in the country.

But they set up an elite force to hunt down JMB fighters after the group set off hundreds of small bombs across the country on a single day in August 2005.

Scores of JMB militants have since been sentenced to death, but none has yet been executed.