22/11/2015 8:35 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Bangladesh Hangs Two Top Opposition Leaders Over 1971 War Crimes

STR via Getty Images
Bangladeshi secular activists and former fighters who fought in the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan protest as they call for the death penalty to be upheld for opposition leaders for Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, over war crimes in that conflict, outside the Supreme Court in Dhaka on November 18, 2015. Bangladesh's highest court on November 18 upheld the death sentences of two opposition leaders convicted for atrocities during the 1971 independence war against Pakistan, sparking fears of violence by their supporters. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

DHAKA -- Two top Bangladeshi opposition leaders were hanged yesterday for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan after the country's President rejected their last-ditch mercy petitions to escape the gallows.

Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary-General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, 67, and BNP leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, 66, were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail at 12.45 AM, a senior jail official who witnessed the execution told PTI.

With Mujahid and Chowdhury's execution, Bangladesh has hanged four war crimes convicts so far.

Jail sources said a seven-member team of hangmen comprising prison inmates carried out the executions.

President Abdul Hamid rejected the mercy petitions of the two top opposition leaders, hours after they had sought presidential clemency in a last-ditch attempt to escape the gallows.

They had sought presidential clemency admitting their guilt.

The prison authorities had called the close relatives of Chowdhury and Mujaheed to see them for the last time.

Bangladesh is on high alert and a huge contingent of security forces has been deployed around the prison.

Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), armed police and jail guards erected a several-tier security system stopping vehicular movements in thoroughfares around the prison complex.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld the death sentences against Chowdhury and Mujahid, who were convicted in 2013 on charges including genocide, rape and torture during the war.

Mujaheed, the second most senior member of Jamaat, was found to be a key mastermind of the massacre of the country's top intelligentsia just ahead of the 16 December, 1971 independence war victory.

Chowdhury, a top aide to BNP chief Khaleda Zia, carried out atrocities at his home district of southeastern Chittagong, leading a violent campaign against the Hindus.

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