People wait in a queue to offer tributes at the memorial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on National Mourning Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. The country was mourning the death anniversary of its independence leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated in a military coup in 1975 along with most of his family. (AP)
NEW DELHI, August 21: A Bangladesh court has sentenced to death 10 leaders and activists from a banned Islamist group for a plot in 2000 to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by planting bombs at one of her rallies.
Judge Mamtaz Begum sentenced the suspects on Sunday in Dhaka, the capital, and ordered them to be shot to death, which is unusual in Bangladesh, where most executions take place by hanging.
Prosecutors said two bombs were found a day before Hasina was scheduled to address a rally at a college campus in the southern town of Kotalipara.
Those convicted belong to the Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami group. Defense attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.
The group's former chief, Mufti Abdul Hannan, was involved in the plot along with his associates, prosecutors told the court. Hannan was hanged in April for his involvement in a 2004 grenade attack on a British envoy in Bangladesh.
The court acquitted 10 of the suspects for lack of evidence, said prosecutor Khondaker Abdul Mannan.
Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami has been blamed for many attacks in Bangladesh in recent years. Though weakened, the group is struggling to fight the government's nationwide crackdown against hard-liners who want to establish strict Islamic law in the Muslim-majority country.
Hannan studied in India and Pakistan, and fought against Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s before returning to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has experienced a rise of Islamic militancy in recent years. Scores of attacks have taken place against members of minority groups, foreigners and atheist bloggers.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, but Prime Minister Hasina's government has rejected the claims. Authorities say the IS doesn't exist in Bangladesh and blame the attacks on a domestic group, Jumatul Mujahedin Bangladesh.
Hasina, who is in her second stint as Bangladesh's leader, was also prime minister from 1996 to 2001.