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Hindus attacked in Bangladesh over alleged blasphemous comments

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At least 20 homes belonging to minority Hindus have been burnt to ash in a northern Bangladeshi village after a group of assailants carried out arson attacks over an allegedly blasphemous social media post, police said on Monday.

Lawmen fired gunshots and tear-gas canisters to disperse the mob of several hundred people who vandalized the Hindu homes and a temple, and set them on fire on Sunday night at Jelepolli, a fishing neighbourhood in Rangpur district, officer Mohammad Mahbub said.

The scene is nearly 220 kilometres north-west of the capital Dhaka.

The officer said the violence was caused by rumours of offensive remarks about Islam in a Facebook post allegedly by a local Hindu man. It comes amid communal tension over the alleged desecration of a Koran at a Hindu festival last week.

Mahbub could not give any details about the rumoured Facebook post.

Pradip Chnadra, a Hindu resident of the village, said the attackers in their hundreds entered his home during the night shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and other religious slogans.

They beat the members of his family, looted valuables and set his tin-roofed home on fire before they left for another home, he told Bangla daily Prothom Alo.

Biplob Kumar Sarker, the district police chief, said dozens of suspects were detained in connection with the arson attacks, and additional forces were deployed to maintain order.

Last week’s alleged Koran desecration during the Hindu religious celebration of Durga Puja prompted violent protests by Muslims in many parts of Bangladesh that left at least six people dead.

The incident, which took place in the town of Cumilla, involved the alleged placement of a Koran on the knee of the Hindu god Hanuman.

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