Bangladesh braces for violence after deadly protests

DHAKA (AFP) – Hundreds of people demonstrated outside a key mosque in the Bangladesh capital Saturday, as the country braces for violence a day after deadly protests by hardline conservatives against a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The clashes, which began on Friday at the main mosque in the capital Dhaka, spread to several key districts in the the Muslim majority nation of 168 million, leaving five people dead and scores injured.

Facebook has been restricted in the country, a company spokesman said, after users complained they could not access the site since late Friday afternoon as images and reports of the violence were shared in social media.

A spokesman for the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), which also acts as a reserve paramilitary force to maintain law and order, said it had deployed troops in parts of the country since Friday night.

“With the instructions of the home ministry and in aid of the civil administration, the required number of BGB has been deployed in different districts of the country,” Lieutenant Colonel Fayzur Rahman told AFP, without disclosing the numbers involved.

Rahman, who is the operations director of the force, said there had been no reports of violence after their deployment.

Activists gather during a demonstration outside the National Mosque in Dhaka. PHOTO: AFP

“Situation is normal,” he said.

But defying the security measures, hundreds gathered at the Baitul Mukarram Masjid, the country’s biggest mosque situated in central Dhaka, to protests police shooting at protesters and Modi’s tour to the Muslim majority country.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the protesters belonged to Hefazat-e-Islam, the country’s largest hardline outfit behind Friday’s protests in over a dozen places including its heartland in Chittagong.

They chanted slogans against Modi, the correspondent said.

Several thousand supporters of Hefazat also staged protests at Hathazari, the rural town outside the country’s second largest city, which witnessed the worst violence yesterday when four protesters were shot during demonstrations.

Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Foyezi told AFP around 10,000 students of Hathazari Madrasa were on the road, blocking a key highway linking the port city with the country’s hill districts.

The government administrator of the town Ruhul Amin said Hefazat supporters put up makeshift bricks wall and dug up the road as vehicles, preventing vehicles from moving on the roads.