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Four protesters shot dead in Bangladesh after ‘desecration’

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 desecration of the Holy Quran during a Hindu religious festival.

In the main incident, a group of people attacked a temple and clashed with police in the southern town of Hajiganj, leaving four dead and over 20 injured, including 15 police officers, local police chief Milon Mahmud said.

A police inspector confirmed the four were shot dead.

Two Hindus were also killed and some 150 others injured on Wednesday, community leader Gobinda Chandra Pramanik said, 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 temple where the alleged desecration took place was among those assaulted, police inspector Monir Ahmed said, 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.

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.

India’s foreign affairs ministry called the attacks “disturbing” in a weekly press briefing and said the High Commission was in close contact with local authorities.

Hindus, who make up some 10 per cent of Bangladesh’s 169 million population, have complained of sporadic violence in recent years, often sparked by rumours spread on social media.

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