Bangladeshi court orders 10 Islamic militants hanged

A Bangladeshi court sentenced 10 Islamic militants to death on Thursday after finding them guilty of assisting a deadly suicide bombing on a lawyers' office in 2005, a prosecutor said.

The militants, from the outlawed Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), showed no remorse after a judge read out the verdict and sentence in a crowded court room in the capital, special public prosecutor Rafiqul Islam said.

"They assisted the suicide bomber in making the bomb, providing information, planning and carrying out the attack," Islam told AFP.

The attack on an office of a lawyers association in November 2005 killed eight people -- four lawyers and four litigants -- plus the bomber, and injured at least 100 others, the prosecutor said.

The attack was one of a series of blasts the JMB carried out in 2005, raising fears that the moderate Muslim-majority nation of 153 million people would descend into an Afghanistan-style Islamic militancy.

The bomber dressed in a traditional lawyer's gown, allowing him to enter the office in Gazipur just north of Dhaka without creating suspicion, before detonating his explosives, the prosecutor said.

Judge Motaher Hossain ordered the sentence of the 10 militants be carried out by hanging.

Thursday's judgement follows a trial in one of Bangladesh's special fast-track courts during which 85 people testified against the militants.

"They (the militants) did not react to the judgement as they don't recognise the court, saying it's 'man-made'," the prosecutor said.

In one of the most brazen attacks carried out by the group in 2005, militants detonated more than 400 small bombs in all but one district of the country on the same day, 17 August.

At least 28 people were killed in all of the attacks carried out by the JMB that took place between August and December that year.

The then Islamist-allied government cracked down on the banned group, hunting down its leaders and prosecuting more than 1,000 of its members. Six of the top leaders were hanged in 2007.

The JMB, led and founded by the Afghan-trained militant Shaikh Abdur Rahman said in pamphlets at the time that it did not recognise the country's "Satan-inspired" government and the attacks were aimed at introducing Sharia law in the country.

Rahman, his deputy and the group's top commander were also charged for being lead planners of the suicide attack on the law office. But their cases were dropped after they were hanged in March 2007 following conviction on a separate crime.

Bangladesh's elite security force Rapid Action Battalion has said the back-bone of the JMB has been broken, although it continues to operate under a new leader. No bombings have been carried out by the group since 2005.

In recent months, Bangladesh has been rocked by deadly protests by the country's largest Islamic political party and a newly formed Islamist group called Hefajat-e-Islam. Although hardline in its views, the Islamist group is not militant nor carried out attacks. It accuses the country's secular government of taking an "anti-Islam" stand.

The violence from the protests, the worst in the country's history with over 150 people killed since January, was first triggered by war crime verdicts against leading Islamists -- three of whom were sentenced to death -- for their roles in the 1971 war of independence.