Dhaka: Hundreds of activists of Islamic parties protesting against an anti-Islam film on Saturday defied a ban on rallies in Bangladesh and clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas and used batons to disperse stone-pelting demonstrators leaving at least 30 people injured.
The protest came on the eve of a nationwide shutdown called by a coalition of 12 small Islamic groups, whose 40 activists were arrested while they were trying to carry out a demonstration against the anti-Islam film.
Witnesses said several hundred Islamists fought pitched battles with police as they attempted to stage a street protest in front of the Press Club here, defying a ban on rallies.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters.
At least 30 people, including law enforcers, were injured during the clash, local media reported.
The demonstrators "torched a motorbike at the Press Club and vandalised three other vehicles on the nearby street" as the clash continued for nearly an hour when police in riot gears lobbed over 20 tear gas canisters, a witness said.
Police enforced a road block on streets around the Press Club diverting vehicles to alternative roads, as smoke enveloped the area trapping a number journalists inside.
A police officer said they arrested Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan chief Maulana Shah Ahmadullah Ashraf and Islami Oikya Jote Secretary General Abdul Latif Nejami among others for violence. Police were still keeping a vigil on the three gates of the Press Club suspecting several protesters were hiding inside to evade arrest.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had earlier this week strongly condemned the anti-Islam film. Main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia had also joined her in condemning the film.
Bangladesh has enforced a ban on video-sharing website YouTube to block the film `Innocence of Muslims` that has triggered violent protests across the Muslim world.
Islamic groups and organisations have staged street protests in the Bangladesh capital chanting anti-US slogans, prompting authorities to enforce an intensified security vigil around the US embassy and other American establishments in Dhaka.