Motiur Rahman Nizami, the chief of Bangladesh's largest Islamist political party, was hanged early Wednesday for crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
The execution of Nizami, 73, head of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, was carried out at Dhaka Central Jail, an official said.
“The execution was carried out at 12.10 am (Wednesday),” Jahangir Kabir told reporters.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the government deployed additional security forces across Bangladesh to maintain order after the execution as the Islamic party called a general strike for Thursday to protest the execution.
Nizami was first sentenced to death by the special war crimes tribunal in October 2014 for genocide, rape, incitement to religious hatred and other crimes against humanity during the nine-month war. He was convicted of eight out of a total 16 allegations.
Television footage showed several hundred activists cheering the execution at Dhaka's central Shahbagh crossing, and hoisting Bangladesh's national flag.
The activists, who have been asking the government to execute war crimes suspects, gathered near the Dhaka University campus as prison authorities were preparing for the execution in the evening.
Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the creation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, and collaborated with the Pakistani military in the war.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the special tribunal in 2010 to prosecute the local collaborators in the conflict.
An estimated 3 million people died and about 200,000 women were raped, according to Bangladesh government estimates. Independent researchers say the death toll was considerably lower.
An earlier initiative to prosecute war crimes was called off after the assassination of Bangladesh's founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Hasina, in 1975.
The opposition politician was head of the wartime vigilante al-Badr group and the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha that aided the Pakistani military against unarmed civilians.
Nizami has been serving as head of the Islamist party since 2000. He was also a minister in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government of former prime minister Khaleda Zia from 2001 to 2006.
Arrested in 2010 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, Nizmai was detained later that year on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity during the war.
The Jamaat chief was earlier found guilty in an arms smuggling case of 2004 and sentenced to death by a court in the port city of Chittagong.
Almost the entire top leadership of the Jamaat-e-Islami party has been accused of crimes committed during the war.
Earlier, senior leaders of the party Abdul Kader Mollah, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were executed for their conviction in crimes against humanity.