Dhaka – Bangladesh police shot dead four people after hundreds vandalised several Hindu temples across the Muslim-majority nation, officials said on Thursday.
Police opened fire on a mob of over 500 people late on Wednesday following furore over footage of a Koran being placed on the knee of a figure of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman during a religious festival.
In the main incident, a group of people attacked a Hindu temple and clashed with police in the southern town of Hajiganj, leaving four dead and nearly two dozen injured, including 15 police officers, local police chief Milon Mahmud told AFP.
A police inspector confirmed the four were shot dead.
Two Hindus were also killed and some 150 others were injured on Wednesday, community leader Gobinda Chandra Pramanik told AFP, with at least 80 makeshift temples attacked.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are in fear,” Pramanik said, adding two more attacks took place on Thursday.
The Hindu temple where the alleged desecration took place was among those assaulted, police inspector Monir Ahmed told AFP, adding that 40 people were arrested at the site.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, who said there were also attempts to ransack the homes of some Hindus, vowed to track down the alleged perpetrators.
In a statement, the government ordered a probe into the violence and “urged everyone to keep religious harmony, peace and security”.
Paramilitary border guards were deployed in 22 of the country’s 64 districts to provide security to festival goers during the nation’s largest Hindu celebration.
Local news site Bdnews24.com, as well as other major Bangladesh news outlets, reported that police had detained a Muslim man named Fayez for allegedly sharing video of the incident.
Extra police deployed
Officers also clashed with hundreds of people in the northeastern Zakiganj town on Wednesday after protesters gathered.
“Several people and a couple of police officers were injured. The mob attacked and vandalised police and local administrators’ cars. We have deployed extra police,” deputy police chief Lutfar Rahman said.
Also in the north, local media reported temples – as well as Hindu idols – were vandalised in two rural districts.
Authorities also increased security in the southern city of Chittagong, which is home to a sizable Hindu population.
The foreign affairs ministry in Hindu-majority neighbour India called the attacks “disturbing” in a weekly press briefing Thursday and said the High Commission was in close contact with local authorities.
Hindus, who make up some 10 percent of Bangladesh’s 169 million population, have faced sporadic violence in recent years, often sparked by rumours spread on social media.
Mobs vandalised at least five Hindu temples and attacked property in 2016 over a Facebook post mocking one of Islam’s holiest sites.
The Durga Puja, which is being celebrated at more than 32 000 makeshift puja mandaps in Bangladesh, culminates with devotees immersing the idol of the goddess Durga in a river on Friday.
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