At least four people were killed, and dozens injured, when several hundred Hefazat-e-Islam activists clashed with cops in Chattogram's Hathazari this afternoon.
Of the deceased, three – Shirajul Islam, Robiul Hasan and Jamil Hasan – were students of Hathazari madrasa while the remaining person was a pedestrian.
Alauddin, assistant sub-inspector of Chittagong Medical College Police Outpost, confirmed the information to The Business Standard (TBS), saying the four succumbed to their injuries at the hospital.
Hefazat's Joint Organising Secretary Meer Idris told TBS, "At least seven more students are in critical condition after sustaining bullet injuries in the clash. Police opened fire on protesting students without any provocation."
According to sources, the clash erupted at Hathazari when the Hefazat activists – mostly students of Hathazari Madrasa – blocked the Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway near Hathazari Police Station, protesting against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh.
As police tried to restore vehicular movement on the road, dispersing them, the protesters attacked them. This was followed by an hour of chases-counter chases and sporadic clashes between two sides.
Hefazat activists threw brick-bats at police – who responded with teargas shells.
At one stage, they entered the adjacent police station and vandalised it.
Later, police fired rubber bullets, dispersed the protesters and brought the situation under control.
Rafiqul Islam, officer-in-charge of Hathazari Police Station, said, "Hefazat followers tried to hold a procession, protesting against the visit of Narendra Modi. Obstructed by the police, they entered Hathazari Police Station and carried out extensive vandalism."
Rise of Hefazat-e-Islam
Hefazat-e-Islam, which claims to be apolitical, came into the spotlight in 2013 when it put up a fight against so-called irreligious statements and activities by the leaders of Ganajagaran Manch and other bloggers.
It reached the top of the discussion with a massive showdown at Shapla Chattar of Motijheel in the capital on 5 May, 2013, under the then-leadership of Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi.
As the showdown turned violent, they were chased away from the capital by law enforcement agencies in the dead of night.
After that showing in the capital, Hefazat did not have to take to the streets again as the Islamist group got much of what it wanted through negotiations which took place out of the public eye.
Gradually, the organisation emerged as a key component in the political arena of Bangladesh as all the leading political blocks attempted to get the Islamist group on their side.