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Protests rattle Bangladesh as Muslim-Hindu tensions simmer

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka as Muslim groups carried out demonstrations on Friday against the alleged desecration of their holy book, the Quran, at a Hindu festival earlier this week.

The protest started from the Baitul Mukarram mosque and soon descended into chaos as protesters started throwing bricks at law enforcers deployed nearby. Security forces used batons, tear gas, and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

Local media reported that several people suffered injuries in the clashes.

Zafrullah Khan, a leader of religiopolitical party Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan, warned of nationwide protests if authorities fail to “immediately identify and punish those who desecrated the Quran.”

There has been unrest in the Muslim-majority country since Wednesday, when an image of the Quran placed on a statue at a Hindu temple in eastern Bangladesh went viral on social media.

It sparked incidents of vandalism at temples in other parts of Bangladesh as the minority Hindu community celebrates its annual Durga Puja festival, prompting the government to beef up security across the country.

Some 100 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on Hindu temples, according to authorities.

One such incident at a temple in the southern district of Chandpur on Wednesday night turned particularly deadly when police confronted the attackers, resulting in at least four deaths and leaving dozens more injured.

Those killings also resonated at Friday’s demonstrations, with protesters calling for action against the law enforcers responsible for the bloodshed in Chandpur.

Khan claimed “some vested quarters” were responsible for the vandalism of Hindu temples, urging the government to remain vigilant to thwart their attempts to fan communal tensions.

As Bangladeshi authorities investigate the image of the Quran at a temple, top government officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, warned against any attempts to disturb communal harmony in the country.

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