Bangladesh executed a leading Muslim opposition figure late Thursday who had been convicted by a war-crimes tribunal of offenses allegedly committed during the country's 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.
The hanging of Abdul Quader Mollah in a Dhaka jail was announced to national media by chief government administrator Sheik Yousuf Harun.
Mollah's execution followed by less than a day a decision by the Bangladesh Supreme Court to reject his appeal of the death sentence imposed just three months ago. The government-aligned Daily Star proclaimed on its website "Butcher of Mirpur Hanged," and offered a graphic account of brutal slayings he was said to have committed.
The newspaper also reported that former President Hussain Mohammed Ershad, who ruled during and after the martial law regime that followed a 1982 bloodless military coup, had been detained along with Ruhul Amin Howlade, head of Ershad's Jatiya Party.
Secretary of State John Kerry had called Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina late Wednesday from Washington and urged her to cancel or at least delay the execution, a source familiar with the U.S. diplomat's intervention said on condition he not be identified. Kerry reportedly argued that Mollah's trial didn't meet international standards for fairness and justice.
Foreign and domestic media reported government supporters were celebrating in the streets of Dhaka.
Sources in contact with Mollah's supporters in the Jamaat-e-Islami party said opposition street demonstrations also gathered force late Thursday and raged through the early hours of Friday.
"It already started last night and will continue to grow," James Mulvaney, a former journalist in Southeast Asia now involved in human-rights investigations, said of the unrest swelling in Bangladesh. "It is a relatively unruly country that degrades into violence at the drop of a hat or a penny rise in the price of bread."