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South Asia

Deadly clashes over anti-blasphemy law in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, at least 20 people have been killed in clashes between police and thousands of Islamic activists. The protesters have demanded that the Muslim-majority nation enact an anti-blasphemy law.

At least 20 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters in the center of Dhaka on Monday, officials and police said.

Media reports said violence erupted after about 10,000 police and soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets to evict a throng of protesters from a central commercial district in Dhaka late Sunday.

News agency AFP put the death toll across Bangladesh at 37, with at least seven killed in clashes outside of the capital.

The protesting Islamists were demanding that the government enact an anti-blasphemy law with provision for the death penalty. They have also vowed to shut down main business hub until their demands are met.

The government has rejected the groups' demands, saying that the country is governed by secular laws.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has said the existing laws have sufficient safeguards to address the protesters' concerns.

Last Friday, he vowed that the government "will not allow any chaos in the name of Islam, a religion of peace."

hc, ccp/pfd (AP, AFP, dpa)