DHAKA  - Bangladesh police arrested the editor of an influential pro-opposition newspaper on Thursday after he was accused of sedition and inciting religious tension in the Muslim-majority nation.

The arrests follow a nationwide crackdown on the opposition including the detention of more than 200 senior officials of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the entire leadership of the largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police said Mahmudur Rehman, 59, the editor of Bengali daily Amar Desh, was arrested at his newspaper office and was remanded for 13 days in police custody for interrogation. “We have arrested him in a case filed against him in December,” Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rehman told AFP, adding he was also accused of publishing false and derogatory information that incited religious tension. The December case against Masud was related to hacking and the publishing of leaked calls between a judge from the country’s controversial war crimes tribunal and an expatriate legal expert, he added.

Mahmudur Rehman, who served as a deputy minister for energy in the cabinet led by opposition BNP leader Khaleda Zia between 2001 and 2006, bought Amar Desh in 2008. He became its acting editor and made it an opposition mouthpiece. Amid rising political tensions, strikes and deadly protests, the circulation of Amar Desh has increased six-fold in recent months to more than 200,000 daily and it is now one of the most visited Bangladeshi news websites.

The BNP, its Islamist allies and journalist unions condemned the arrest and demanded Rehman’s immediate release. About 50 journalists demonstrated in front of the national press club. Showkat Mahmood, secretary general of the Federal Union of Journalists, said the arrest “is due to a political vendetta”. Masud, who had been living in his office for months fearing arrest, was jailed for six months in 2010 for contempt of court. The publication of Amar Desh was also shut down for 47 days.

Meanwhile, at least three people were killed and scores injured on Thursday, said police, as clashes erupted in parts of Bangladesh on the fourth day of a nationwide strike called by an Islamist opposition.

Police said two men were beaten to death in Buzpur town in southeastern Chittagong district in violence between supporters of the ruling Awami League (AL) party and Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

In another wave of clashes in the southern district of Khulna, a protester from Jamaat was shot dead after police opened fire at 500 of its supporters during the strike.

The violence is the latest to hit Bangladesh, stemming from a continuing war crimes tribunal at which almost the entire Jamaat leadership is in the dock for crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. The latest killings brought the overall death toll from clashes triggered by the trials to 100 since January 21 when the court handed down its first verdicts.

“Two men were beaten to death during the clashes. We could not determine immediately which group they belonged to,” Buzpur police chief Angshothowai Marma told AFP.

The clashes between some 1,200 secular AL supporters and several thousands of Jamaat supporters were triggered by rumours that the former were going to attack local Islamic seminaries, Marma said, adding that around 12 people were injured.

Jamaat called Thursday’s strike to demand the release of the head of its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir. Police in Khulna said they opened fire after coming under attack from protesters.

“Police opened fire after they came under attack from 500 Jamaat supporters,” Khulna district police chief Ghulam Rouf Khan told AFP, adding that the protesters fired guns and hurled home-made bombs at police.

“A Jamaat man, hit with a bullet in the chest, died on the way to a hospital,” another police officer, Kazi Abu Salek, told AFP.

Some 20 Jamaat supporters were hit with bullets and five police officers were injured in the clashes in Khulna, online newspaper bdnews24.com said.

The war crimes trials have plunged the impoverished country into one of its most turbulent chapters since independence. Analysts fear lasting damage to the fabric of the world’s eighth-most populous country.