Police battle with hardline Sunnis leaves 20 hurt in Dhaka
DHAKA - Clashes between police and hundreds of a hardline Sunni Muslims left 20 people hurt in the Bangladesh capital on Friday, police said.
The Sunnis, supporters of Khatme Nabuwat Movement, intended to march on a mosque of the minority Muslim Ahmadiya community, police said.
Police used batons and lobbed tear-gas to disperse the Sunnis who demanded the minority sect be declared non-Muslim.
Several policemen were among the injured as the protestors smashed vehicles in the heart of the city, a police officer said.
“They threw bricks at us and were unruly, forcing us to retaliate with tear gas and baton charges. We did not allow them to march towards the Ahmadiya mosque,” the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Human rights groups say the 100,000 Ahmadiyas in Bangladesh are persecuted by extremists from the majority Sunni community who want them declared non-Muslim for not believing that Mohammed was the last prophet.
In June, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report accusing the Khatme Nabuwat group and its allies of attacking Ahmadiya mosques, beating and killing some Ahmadiyas.
In January 2004 the government banned Ahmadiya publications, saying the measure was necessary to avoid hurting the sentiments of the majority Sunni population. The ban has since been suspended by the High Court.
Bangladesh has since 1992 witnessed sporadic violence between the Ahmadiyas and Sunni hardliners, including the deaths of seven people in 1999 in a blast during prayers at an Ahmadiya mosque.
12/23/2005 12:56 GMT