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Hundreds protest in Bangladesh over religious violence

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Bangladeshi activists join in a torch procession demanding justice for the violence against Hindu communities during Durga Puja festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 18, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

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DHAKA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people protested in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Monday calling for an end to religious violence that has gripped the country for four days, leading to at least two deaths and several injured.

The violence began on Oct. 15, when hundreds of Muslims protested in the southeastern Noakhali district over an allegedly blasphemous incident. Two Hindu men died following that protest, Mohammed Shahidul Islam, the police chief in Noakhali, told Reuters by phone.

"There is some confusion about whether they died due to the unlawful assembly, or otherwise," Islam said, adding that police are investigating the deaths. "They (the protestors) were miscreants, actually, that is all we can say."

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Islam declined to share further details.

Several Hindu religious sites have been attacked in recent days, which the country's home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said were attacks aimed at destroying the communal harmony in Bangladesh. Hindus make up around 10% of the Muslim-majority country's population.

"No incident has been reported since Saturday night. Our security forces are working patiently based on intelligence information," Khan told the news agency ANI.

Unidentified "miscreants" attacked some homes in the Rangpur city on Monday, police told the agency.

The unrest is some of the worst in Bangladesh since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party came to power there in 2009. It poses a challenge to her party, which is seen as the more secular one of the two political groups that have alternated power in Bangladesh for most of its independent history.

Some of those gathered to protest near the Dhaka University in the capital city on Monday held up banners that demanded the police identify the attackers and bring them to justice.

"Safety of minorities in the country must be ensured," one of the banners read.

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Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Rafiqur Rahman; Editing by Alistair Bell

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