DHAKA: About 10,000 protesters in Bangladesh burnt American and Israeli flags and tried to march to the US embassy on Friday to demonstrate against an anti-Islam film that has infuriated the Muslim world
Chanting “God is Great”, “Smash the black hands of Jews” and “We won’t tolerate insult to our great prophet”, the protesters held rowdy demonstrations outside the Baitul Mokarram Mosque, the country’s largest, after Friday prayers.
Hundreds of police and rifle-wielding elite Rapid Action Battalion, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and water cannons followed the rally and blocked them miles from the heavily-fortified US embassy.
“It was peaceful. We blocked their procession after they marched more than a mile,” local police chief Golam Sarwar told AFP.
Sarwar said the biggest march attracted about 5,000 people, while five other smaller groups had around 1,000 protesters each.
Chief cleric of the Baitul Mokarram Mosque, Maulana Mohammad Salahuddin, slammed the film during his Friday sermons. “We want exemplary punishment to the filmmakers,” he said.
But he asked the 20,000 worshippers who attended the Friday prayers not “to cross the line in their protest or cause any harm to people or property”.
Bangladesh police said they had boosted security at the US embassy to prevent any repeat of violence that left four Americans including the US ambassador dead in Libya on Tuesday.
Some 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 153 million people are Muslims. The country saw protests by tens of thousands of people against the publication of Mohammed cartoons by a Danish newspaper in 2006.