Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bangladesh police break up Islamist protest in Dhaka

Police in Bangladesh have used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse a huge demonstration by Islamist protesters in the capital Dhaka.

Thousands fled as police took control of the central business district.

Up to half a million supporters of the group Hefazat-e Islam had gathered in the city to call for stronger Islamic policies. Rioters went on to set fire to shops and vehicles.

At least seven people were killed and 60 injured in clashes with police.

Some casualties suffered bullet wounds in the head, hospital sources say.

'Hang atheists'
 
Thousands of Islamist activists were seen fleeing the Motijheel area as police moved in to take control of the area, the BBC Bengali service reports.

Early on Monday, a police spokesman said officers had secured the business district and were searching for protesters hiding in nearby buildings.

The area around the city centre's largest mosque had turned into a battleground as police reacted to stone-throwing rioters with tear gas, rubber bullets and truncheons.

On Sunday, crowds of protesters blocked main roads, isolating Dhaka from other parts of the country.
Dhaka's Daily Star newspaper reports that the group hired at least 3,000 vehicles, including buses, lorries and minibuses to bring demonstrators into the capital, while others travelled there by train.

Chanting "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is greatest!") and "One point! One demand! Atheists must be hanged", the activists marched down at least six main roads as they headed for Motijheel, AFP news agency reported

Three people have been killed and more than 60 injured in continuing clashes between police and Islamist activists in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka

Hefazat-e Islam wants greater segregation of men and women, as well as the imposition of stricter Islamic education. 

The movement draws its strength from the country's madrassahs, or religious schools.

Its opposition to a national development policy for women has angered women's groups.

The government, which describes Bangladesh as a secular democracy, has rejected Hefazat-e Islam's demand for a new law on blasphemy.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said current legislation was adequate.

Muslims make up nearly 90% of the country's population, with the rest mostly Hindus.