Two more people died in fresh clashes between protesters and Bangladesh police on Sunday, raising the death toll from protests against the visit of India's Hindu-nationalist leader to 13, officials said.
The protesters from Hefazat-e-Islam group, one of the largest Islamic nonpolitical groups, were angry at the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Bangladesh marked 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking communal violence against Muslims in his country.
Five people died on Friday, and another six the next day, after police shot at demonstrators in several major districts across the Muslim-majority nation of 168 million people.
Two others – a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old – died in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria after officers opened fire in clashes in the rural town of Sarail on Sunday, a police spokesman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"They (protesters) stormed a highway police station, torching it and injuring at least 35 policemen. Police opened fire in self-defense," the spokesman told AFP, adding that some 3,000 protesters had blocked a highway and attacked police with bricks and stones.
Another person was feared dead, Sarail's government administrator, Ariful Haq Mridul, told AFP.
Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman Khan called for the protests to be halted.
"Our security forces are observing this with patience," Khan told reporters on Sunday. "We think if this is not stopped, we'll take necessary actions."
At another protest in Narayanganj just outside the capital Dhaka on Sunday, Hefazat supporters chanted "action, action, direct action" as they blocked the key highway linking Dhaka with the port city of Chittagong. Hundreds of demonstrators burnt furniture and tires on the roads as they chanted anti-Modi slogans and called on authorities to investigate the earlier shootings.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after the protesters barricaded parts of the highway. A police spokesman told AFP they had since left the road.
The country's largest Bengali daily, Prothom Alo, said at least 15 people were injured in the Narayanganj clashes. Protests were also held in the northeastern city of Sylhet and in Bosila, a Dhaka suburb, but there were no reports of violence, local media reported.
As Bangladesh celebrated independence, human rights groups criticized the government for what they described as growing authoritarianism, including forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Other groups – including students and leftists – also staged protests against Modi's visit on Friday and Saturday.
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