Two die in clashes between protesters and police, bringing the death toll to 13 following protests against the visit of India’s Hindu nationalist leader.
Two people died on Sunday in further clashes between protesters and Bangladeshi police, bringing the death toll to 13 following sweeping religious protests against the visit of the Indian Hindu nationalist leader, officials said.
Protesters – mostly from the extremist religious group Hefazat-e-Islam – were angry at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit as Bangladesh marks 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking community violence against Muslims in his country.
Five people died on Friday, and six more the next day, after police fired on protesters in several main districts of the predominantly Muslim nation of 168 million.
Two others – a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old – died in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria after police opened fire during clashes in the rural town of Sarail on Sunday, a spokesman for the police to the AFP news agency.
“They (the demonstrators) stormed a traffic police station, setting it on fire and injuring at least 35 police officers. The police opened fire to defend themselves, ”the spokesperson told AFP news agency. He did not say if the couple had been shot by police.
He said some 3,000 protesters, mostly Hefazat supporters, blocked a highway and attacked police with bricks and stones.
Bangladesh Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has called for an end to the protests.
“Our security forces are watching this with patience,” Khan told reporters on Sunday. “We believe that if this is not stopped, we will take the necessary measures.”
At another protest in Narayanganj, just outside the capital Dhaka, on Sunday, Hefazat supporters chanted “action, action, direct action” as they blocked the main road from Dhaka to the port city of Chittagong.
Hundreds of protesters burned furniture and tires on the roads chanting anti-Modi slogans and calling on authorities to investigate previous shootings.
Police fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets after protesters barricaded parts of the highway. A police spokesperson told AFP they had since left the road.
The country’s largest Bengali daily, Prothom Alo, said at least 15 people were injured in the Narayanganj clashes.
Bangladesh’s largest English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, reported that at least 10 people were injured when Hefazat supporters attacked a train carrying passengers from Dhaka to Chittagong.
Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Fîtrei told AFP that thousands of his supporters joined the protests at its headquarters in Hathazari, near Chittagong, which is home to a senior Muslim seminary.
Local media also reported clashes between Hefazat supporters and police in several other towns and villages.
The extremist religious group has a nationwide network and has organized large protests in the past to call on Bangladesh to introduce blasphemy laws.
Protests also took place in the northeastern town of Sylhet and in Bosila, a suburb of Dhaka, but no cases of violence were reported, local media reported.
As Bangladesh celebrated its independence, human rights groups criticized the government for what they called growing authoritarianism, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Other groups – including students, leftists and other political parties – also staged protests against Modi’s visit on Friday and Saturday.