Bloody clashes erupt in Bangladesh over `blasphemous` bloggers

At least four people were dead and scores injured as thousands of activists of about a dozen of religion-based parties and groups clashed with police.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2013, 15:46 PM IST

Dhaka: At least four people were dead and scores injured as thousands of activists of about a dozen of religion-based parties and groups clashed with police, lobbed handmade bombs and pelted stones at them in capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country after Friday`s weekly Juma prayers over the issue of blasphemous bloggers.
Police fired rubber bullets, used water cannons and tear gas in retaliation. Apart from the protesters, dozens of police men and journalists were also injured across Bangladesh.
A police spokesman could not be reached to know about the exact number of people who died and injured throughout the country during the hours of violence in which ruling party men have also reportedly clashed with the Islamists.

Local TV channels reported that at least "four people" were dead in the incidents of clashes in three Bangladesh districts. But it was not known whether the victims were engaged in party politics.

The Islamist parties have called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for Sunday protesting what they said attack on demonstrators demanding punishment to top bloggers for hurting religious sentiments from Shahbag Square movement since Feb 5.

Frustrated at a war crimes verdict, scores of youths imbued with the spirit of the country`s nine-month liberation war first gathered in Shahbag on Feb. 5 afternoon under the banner of " Bloggers and Online Activist Network" hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, to life term imprisonment for his war crimes. Bangladesh`s Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters that the protesters who created anarchy are actually “Jamaat activists".

Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Sheikh Nazmul Alam told reporters, "Leaders of the Islami Andolan (movement) and 12 like-minded Islamist parties contacted us assuring that they would hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the Baitul Mokarram mosque (in Dhaka) in protest against the ``anti-Islamic`` campaign by some Shahbagh bloggers.

They were given permission to hold the program following such an assurance. "But they resorted to vandalism after their procession headed towards the Press Club, prompting police to fire teargas shells and rubber bullets," he was quoted as saying to a leading local news agency

He was asked whether the Jamaat activists who have been running riot across the country for last couple of months were involved in the clashes riding on the program of other Islamist organizations. "I see something like that. We`ll look into the issue,"he said.

Eight more top leaders of Jamaat, which allegedly collaborated with Pakistan forces to prevent an independent Bangladesh in 1971, are now facing trials for committing crimes against humanity during the nine-month of liberation war. A spokesman of Jamaat was not immediately available for comment.