UPDATE: According to Reuters, two policemen and a member of a paramilitary force were among those killed in Sunday's clashes.
Clashes in the capital of Bangladesh have left at least 15 people dead and more than 50 injured after Islamic protesters fought running battles with police. Violence broke out in Dhaka on Sunday with officers forced to use stun grenades to break up a rally by the group Hefazat-e Islam. The clashes have continued into Monday across the city.
According to police, more than 200,000 protesters marched the city centre to demand the government take a more Islamic stance on domestic policy. Many of the protesters had come into Dhaka from rural villages, making their way to the city's largest mosque. However, the gathering quickly turned into a riot as shops and cars were set alight, governments building were attacked and police officers were targeted. Clashes outside the mosque saw police react to stone throwing with tear gas and rubber bullets fired from armoured vehicles.
According to the AFP, the protesters were heard chanting: "One point, one demand, atheists must be hanged." Sky News reported a protester, saying: "This government does not have faith in Allah. This is an atheist government; we will not allow them to live in Bangladesh. Muslims are brothers, we must protect Islam."
Hefazat-e Islam has long-campaigned for stricter Islamic laws in Bangladesh, even though those in power maintain the country is a secular democracy. The Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently dismissed calls for a new blasphemy law. The protesters offered a 13-point list of demands, including a pledge to Allah in the constitution, the end to gender mixing in society and mandatory Islamic education.
The police have banned any further rallies in Dhaka to prevent a repeat of the violence. Having regained control of much of the city, including the business district of Motijheel, which saw some of the fiercest clashes, police are now looking for protesters to arrest.
A police spokesman told the AFP: "We were forced to act after they unlawfully continued the gathering at Motijheel. They attacked us with bricks, stones, rods and bamboo sticks."
Bangladesh is still reeling from a recent garment factory collapse that saw more than 600 workers killed. The search for bodies in the rubble continues, with the death toll expected to finish much higher.Suggest a correction