Islamist riots in Bangladesh kill dozens of protesters

Featured South East Asia - May 8th, 2013

At least 27 people have been killed and dozens hurt in fiery, violent clashes between Islamist hardliners and riot police in Bangladesh.

Massive protests demanding a strict anti-blasphemy law paralyzed the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka as a group planned to lay siege to the city on Sunday demanding strict punishments for those seen as insulting Islam.

Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse tens of thousands of supporters of Hefajat-e-Islam, reports the Financial Times.

The conflict left 27 people dead and 250 injured after rioters set shops and vehicles ablaze. The death toll in Dhaka included at least two policemen, according to officials, reports BBC. At least five people were reported killed in clashes in the neighboring city of Chittagong and two in the coastal district of Bagerhat.

Protests erupted after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rejected demands by Islamist groups and said that existing laws were sufficient to punish anyone who attempted to insult religion.