At least a dozen people were reportedly injured in clashes between police and protesters in Bangladesh, as violence spread across the country on the third day of protests against the visit of India’s Hindu nationalist leader.
Protesters also reportedly attacked Hindu temples and a train in eastern Bangladesh on Sunday.
Five people died on Friday, and six more on Saturday, after police fired on protesters in several large districts of the predominantly Muslim country of 168 million people.
The protesters – mostly from the Hefazat-e-Islam group – were angry at the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom they accuse of fueling community violence against Muslims in his country.
Modi was in Bangladesh to attend the Golden Jubilee of Independence celebrations and the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founder and father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hefazat militants reportedly attacked a train in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria on Sunday, injuring 10 people.
“They attacked the train and damaged its engine room and almost all of the coaches,” a police official told Reuters news agency, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media .
Javed Rahim, a journalist from the city of Brahmanbaria, told Reuters by telephone: “Brahmanbaria is on fire. Various government offices were set on fire indiscriminately. Even the press club was attacked and many injured, including the president of the press club. We have extreme fear and we feel really helpless. “
Several Hindu temples in the city were also attacked, he said.
Protesters also reportedly torched two buses in the western district of Rajshahi on Sunday.
At a new protest in Narayanganj just outside the capital, Dhaka, Hefazat supporters chanted “action, action, direct action” as they blocked the main road from Dhaka to the port city of Chittagong.
Hundreds of protesters clashed with police and burned furniture and tires on the roads as they chanted anti-Modi slogans and called on authorities to investigate the police shootings.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after protesters barricaded parts of the highway. A police spokesperson told AFP news agency they had since left the road.
Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Foyei told AFP on Sunday that thousands of his supporters took part in protests at its headquarters in Hathazari, near Chittagong, which is home to a senior Islamic seminary.
“The police opened fire on our peaceful supporters,” the group’s organization secretary Azizul Haque said at a rally in Chittagong a day earlier. “We will not let the blood of our brothers go in vain.”
The Islamist 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, the eastern district of Brahmanbaria and Bosila, a suburb of Dhaka, but no violence was 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 Islamist groups – had also staged protests against Modi’s visit on Friday and Saturday.
“The right to peaceful protest has come under concerted attack, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in this type of bloody crackdown,” Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, Amnesty researcher in Asia, said in a statement. South.
Modi left the country on Saturday after meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and donating 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccines to the country.
The two countries issued a joint statement celebrating their cooperation and partnership, but the government of Bangladesh did not comment on the protests.