Dhaka – A Bangladesh court on Thursday charged 13 Islamists with murder over a 2001 bomb blast at a political rally in Dhaka that left five people dead.

A judge ruled the head of the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) outfit, and four other members of the banned group should stand trial for the attack, a prosecutor said.

All 13, including HuJI leader Mufti Abdul Hannan, face death by hanging if they are found guilty at trial of the attack.

“Of the accused, five including Mufti Hannan were present at the court room when the judge charged them for murder. The remaining eight are absconding,” Asaduzzaman Rochi told AFP.

The eight, who have long been on the run, were charged in absentia.

The blast targeting the Communist Party of Bangladesh rally instantly killed four people and injured at least 25, one of whom later died later in hospital, he said.

The attack was one of a string that rocked Bangladesh after 1999 when many of the country’s Islamists started returning from militant activities in Afghanistan.

The Islamists created mayhem by targeting Christians, sufi shrines, communists, cultural activists and secular parties whom they considered to be against Islam.

Hannan, who set up HuJI in Bangladesh, has already been sentenced to death in two others cases including a grenade attack on the British High Commissioner, which left three people dead. The envoy was unharmed.

Ten years ago, another deadly grenade attack was also carried out at a rally for current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was opposition leader at that time.

The attack, also blamed on the Hannan-led HuJI, left at least 20 people dead including the wife of a former Bangladesh president. Hasina’s ear was badly injured in the explosion.