NARAYANGANJ, March 28 — A teenager has died and at least a dozen people were injured during clashes between police and demonstrators in Bangladesh today, officials and reports said, in the third day of Islamist protests against the visit of India’s Hindu-nationalist leader.
The protesters — mostly from the hardline Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam — were angry at the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Bangladesh marked 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking communal violence against Muslims in his country.
Five people died on Friday, and another six the next day, after police shot at demonstrators in several major districts across the Muslim-majority nation of 168 million people.
The 19-year-old boy died in a hospital in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria after being caught up in clashes in the rural town of Sarail on Sunday, Shawkat Hossain, a doctor at the state-run centre, told AFP.
The cause of death was not yet known, he added.
Two other people were feared dead, Sarail’s government administrator, Ariful Haq Mridul, told AFP.
Mridul said about 3,000 Hefazat supporters and Muslim villagers had taken part in the Sarail protests, and used logs to block roads.
Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan called for the protests to be halted.
“Our security forces are observing this with patience,” Khan told reporters on Sunday.
“We think if this is not stopped, we’ll take necessary actions.”
At another protest in Narayanganj just outside the capital Dhaka on Sunday, Hefazat supporters chanted “action, action, direct action” as they blocked the key highway linking Dhaka with the port city of Chittagong.
Hundreds of demonstrators burnt furniture and tyres on the roads as they chanted anti-Modi slogans and called on authorities to investigate the earlier shootings.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after the protesters barricaded parts of the highway. A police spokesman told AFP they had since left the road.
The country’s largest Bengali daily, Prothom Alo, said at least 15 people were injured in the Narayanganj clashes.
Bangladesh’s largest English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, reported that at least 10 people were injured when Hefazat supporters attacked a train carrying passengers from Dhaka to Chittagong.
Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Foyezi told AFP thousands of its supporters joined demonstrations at its headquarters at Hathazari outside Chittagong, which is home to a top Islamic seminary.
Local media also reported clashes between Hefazat supporters and police in several other cities and towns.
The Islamist group has a nationwide network and has held large protests in the past demanding Bangladesh introduce blasphemy laws.
Protests were also held in the northeastern city of Sylhet and in Bosila, a Dhaka suburb, but there were no reports of violence, local media reported.
As Bangladesh celebrated independence, human rights groups criticised the government for what they described as growing authoritarianism, including forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Other groups — including students, leftists and other Islamist outfits — also staged protests against Modi’s visit on Friday and yesterday. — AFP