Bangladesh blames Muslim Rohingyas for temple attacks

DHAKA Mon Oct 1, 2012 8:36am EDT

1 of 9. Bangladeshi Buddhist monks protest against attacks on Buddhist temples and homes, in front of national press club in Dhaka September 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Biraj

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DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh accused Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on Monday of involvement in attacks on Buddhist temples and homes in the southeast and said the violence was triggered by a photo posted on Facebook that insulted Islam.

Thousands of Muslims went on a rampage in Buddhist areas of Bangladesh near the border on Saturday, setting ablaze more than a dozen temples and monasteries and at least 50 homes. Property was looted, including statues of the Buddha.

"The attacks on temples and houses in Buddhist localities in Ramu and neighboring areas in Cox's Bazar (district) were perpetrated by radical Islamists," Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters in Dhaka.

"Rohingyas and political opponents of the government were also involved in the attacks."

He described the attacks as a "premeditated and deliberate attempt" to disrupt communal harmony.

It was one of the worst sectarian attacks in Bangladesh, spreading fear throughout the Buddhist minority.

Police said violence spread to the port of Chittagong, where at least two temples were vandalized. But police drove the attackers away and tightened security around Buddhist areas.

Police said they arrested nearly 170 people on suspicion of vandalism and an investigation was ordered into the violence.

Rohingyas were involved in a week of rioting with Buddhist Rakhines across the border in Myanmar last June and aid agencies say they bore the brunt of a government crackdown to halt the violence.

Rohingyas are not included in any census in multi-ethnic Myanmar and have no citizenship. Bangladesh does not accept them and pushed back out to sea refugees fleeing that unrest.

Police said the latest attacks were launched after Muslims found a Facebook photo of a burned Koran, allegedly posted by a young Buddhist man who was taken into safe custody by police. The Facebook account was closed.

Leaders of the Buddhist community, which makes up less than 1 percent of Bangladesh's population of 150 million, accused unidentified activists of sowing discord.

"The situation has been under control since Sunday but we are adding forces to vulnerable areas to ensure the peace is kept," said Serajul Haque Khan, top civil administrator of the Chittagong division.

Many Bangladeshi Muslims have taken part in protests in recent days against a film made in California and deemed insulting to Islam.

Though most Rohingyas were turned back from Bangladesh during last June's violence, local residents accuse some of infiltrating the country and teaming up with Islamists.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York, called for tough measures to prevent further attacks on minority communities, state media reported.

(Additional reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (2)
Metteyya wrote:
This was a case where a 25-year-old Buddhist had his picture on Facebook tagged to a Quran burning photo by “someone”. Facebook really should disable the tagging feature or give users the option of allowing or not allowing any tagging to be associated with their photos, and PUBLICIZE how to turn off the tagging feature altogether.

Too much abuse can occur with the current Facebook tagging scheme, in which people can be associated with content they really object to with no option to approve the tagging before it occurs.

I wonder in this case why the IDENTITY of the tagger was not publicized? It would be interesting to know if she were a Jew or Christian trying to start unnecessary animosity between Buddhists and Muslims who ordinarily co-exist peacefully like described in other articles on this story elsewhere.

Oct 01, 2012 8:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
wrote:
Again Rohingyas are dragged into controversy. Indeed, weak people have no place on this earth. Buddhist are killing Rohingyas and were burning Rohingyas’ houses, destroying mosques and sometimes burning their religious books. Bengalis did the same to Buddhists in Bangaldesh. Rohingyas are blamed. Sadly, inhumane Bangladeshi government is politicizing the matter to defeat the opponents. Such the dirty Bangladeshi Awami League Politicians.

Oct 01, 2012 10:02am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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