Four People Dead in Bangladesh After Clashes Over Atheist Bloggers

Clashes in Bangladesh have left four people dead and over 200 injured as Islamists demanded on Friday the execution of atheist bloggers who are being accused of blasphemy.

IBN Live reported that police were forced into using rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to disperse Islamist radicals, many of whom were reportedly assembled by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, leaving Dhaka looking like a battle scene.

Violent clashes broke out in front of the Baitul Mukarram national mosque, where protesters injured a dozen journalists while police attempted to protect worshippers inside the mosque.

Nearly half a million mosques nationwide were called to rally on Friday by the country's 12 Islamic parties, calling for the death penalty for bloggers deemed to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic religion.

"The situation is definitely under control across the country," Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker said Friday evening after the protests were brought under control. Police told AFP that two of the protesters died in the northwestern town of Palashbari, while two others were killed elsewhere.

The Muslim-majority country has been up in arms following the anti-Islamic posts by atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was killed last week in Dhaka, according to the Times of India. Other online bloggers responded to Haider's death on social networking websites by mocking Islam. This only served to anger more Islamic groups and clerics in the country, who are calling for anyone who insults their religion and commits blasphemy to be put to death.

The JL party has been convicted of war crimes in the past. JI Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Mollah was held up before a special tribunal earlier in February where he was accused of mass killings during the 1971 war in East Pakistan. He was sentenced to life in prison, which angered thousands of his supporters, further inciting tensions on Friday.

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