At least 10 dead in Bangladesh violence

Islamic activists demand the government enacts anti-blasphemy law


Ten people were killed in Bangladesh in clashes between police and Islamic hardliners early today. The private United News of Bangladesh reported that seven people were killed in clashes in Dhaka, and another three died in Kanchpur on the outskirts of the capital.

There was no information from police. The reports said violence erupted after security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets evicted about 20,000 protesters from a central commercial district in Dhaka.

Hefajat-e-Islam, a radical group based in the southern seaport city of Chittagong have been protesting to demand that the government enact an anti-blasphemy law. The government in the Muslim-majority nation has rejected the groups’ demands, saying Bangladesh is governed by secular liberal laws.

“Enough is enough, the government will not tolerate this mayhem,” Syed Ashraful Islam, a cabinet minister, said in televised comments yesterday. “The government will deal with any further violence aggressively.”

The clashes were the latest in Bangladesh between conservative Islamic groups and security forces this year.

Hefajat’s protest is backed by another religious group, the Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are on trial for war crimes committed during the country’s independence struggle in 1971. It was those hearings that sparked the current violence in Bangladesh.

As the first verdicts were delivered this year, online activists and youth groups gathered in the capital’s Shahbag square and through postings on Facebook and other social media, called for those found guilty by the tribunal to be sentenced to death. Blog Posts Jamaat and Hefajat took to the streets demanding new blasphemy laws to punish bloggers they accused of maligning Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

Hefajat is seeking the release of Islamic scholars and madrassah students detained by police since deadly protests erupted over the tribunal’s rulings. Thousands of Islamic activists rampaged through parts of the capital yesterday setting fire to 30 buses, 100 shops and a police outpost, according to a report in the Daily Star newspaper.