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© AFP Mir Quasem Ali was accused of leading a “reign of terror” in Chittagong

A leader and major financial backer of the biggest Islamist party in Bangladesh has been executed for war crimes in 1971, officials say.

Media tycoon Mir Quasem Ali, 63, of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was sentenced to death two years ago.

He had been convicted of offences including murder and torture committed during the war with Pakistan.

The tycoon was hanged at a high-security prison outside Dhaka on Saturday evening.

His execution follows several attacks by Islamist militants in Bangladesh, including an assault on a cafe in Dhaka in July in which 20 hostages, most of them foreigners, were killed.

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At his trial, Mir Quasem Ali had been accused of involvement in a “reign of terror” in the city of Chittagong. He was found guilty of eight of the 14 charges he faced.

Government figures suggest as many as three million people died in the nine-month war to secede from Pakistan, although some say the number of deaths is unverifiable and probably less than that.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up a war crimes tribunal in 2010 to look into abuses during the independence war.

But critics of the court say the government has been using the tribunal to target political opponents. Human Rights Watch has previously said the court’s procedures are not up to international standards.

The Awami League, which leads the current government, says it is necessary to help the country come to terms with its past.

Bangladeshi police in June launched a wide-ranging operation against Islamists, arresting more than 3,000 people in what was said to be an effort to stop attacks on minorities and secular citizens.

The opposition accused the government of using the measures to target political opponents.

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