DHAKA: At least four people were killed and nearly 50 injured on Sunday after police fired on thousands of Bangladeshis protesting against a Facebook post by a Hindu that was said to be blasphemous, according to officials.

Mob attacks over Facebook posts perceived to be blasphemous have emerged as a major problem for security forces in Bangladesh, where Muslims make up some 90 per cent of the country’s 168 million people.

Some 20,000 people demonstrated at a prayer ground in Borhanuddin town on the country’s largest island of Bhola to call for the execution of the young Hindu man, who was arrested on Saturday over charges of inciting religious tension. Bhola is about 115 kilometres south of the capital, Dhaka.

Police said they opened fire in self-defence after some in the crowd threw rocks at the officers.

“At least four people were killed and up to 50 people injured,” police inspector Salahuddin Mia said.

He said extra police and border guards were being deployed in the town.

The death toll is expected to rise, with Bhola Sadar Hospital duty doctor Tayebur Rahman saying at least seven of the 43 people taken to hospital were fighting for their lives.

“We have sent the critically injured people to the regional hospital in Barisal (city). Their condition is not stable,” he said.

Some leading newspapers said about 100 people were injured.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019