At least four people were killed in southern Bangladesh after police clashed with rioting Muslims incensed over an allegedly derogatory remark about the Prophet Muhammad posted on Facebook.
Police said the violence erupted on Oct. 20 after protesters demanded punishment of the Hindu man for the Facebook comment. The man denied making the comment about the prophet and his youngest daughter, saying his Facebook account had been hacked.
Local authorities held a meeting to try to defuse tensions that began on Oct. 18 in the southern district of Bhola, as the Facebook post spread, police said. But security officials were forced to use tear gas as more angry protesters took to the streets.
“We fired blank shots in self-defense when some people started throwing stones at our officers, forcing us to take shelter in a building,” Sarkar Mohammad Kaisar, superintendent of police in Bhola, told news agencies.
Officials said 50 people were injured, including police officers, although Bangladesh newspapers put the number at about 100 people.
“This beast has condemned our prophet and his daughter Fatima by name … Let the almighty compel the judges to hang this person,” one person wrote in a Facebook post, calling for a protest against such “arrogance.”
Police later detained three people for alleged hacking, according to news agencies reported DW.
Communal tensions often flare in Muslim-majority Bangladesh where activists say minority groups face discrimination and even deadly violence. Hindus make up 8.5 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people.
Christians, who make up less than one percent, have in recent years faced attacks by Islamist radicals. Several Christians have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on a local militant group. The same group stormed a Dhaka café in 2016 and massacred 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in an attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State group.