Violence gripped the Bangladeshi capital today as thousands of Islamists chanting "Allahu Akbar" and demanding a tougher blasphemy law set ablaze 100 shops and clashed with the police leaving at least four people dead and 80 others injured.
The newly-floated Hefazat-e-Islam or "Protectorate of Islam" enforced their "Dhaka siege" programme to mount pressure on the secular Awami League-led government to implement their 13-point demand, including the enactment of a blasphemy law to punish those who insult Islam and the Prophet.
At least 15 crude bombs exploded in front of the ruling Awami League's headquarters at the Bangabandhu Avenue when several Hifazat processions were heading towards Motijheel to join the group's rally.
Clashes soon erupted at the Bangabandhu Avenue and quickly spread to surrounding areas.
Witnesses said the Purana Paltan area at the heart of the capital and downtown Dhaka saw the worst violence where activists using brickbats, stones and crude bombs clashed with riot police who retaliated with hundreds of rubber bullets and tear gas canisters.
Four people were killed and 80 injured as activists of Hefazat-e-Islam and Islami Chhatra Shibir clashed with police, media reports said.
Jamaat-Shibir, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, activists joined by Hefazat-e-Islam men set fire to at least 100 shops and business establishments, looted shops at Baitul Mukarram mosque complex and torched over 30 government buses in the capital.
A traffic constable sustained severe burn injuries when Hefazat-e-Islam activists set fire to a police picket in Bijoynagar. The Hefazat-e-Islam activists also assaulted photo journalists during the clash.
The entire Paltan, Baitul Mukarram, Bijoynagar, Dainik Bangla intersection, Bangabandhu Avenue and its adjacent areas turned into a battle ground as the leaders and activists of Hefazat-e-Islam fought pitched battles with the police.
During the clash, the activists of Hefazat-e-Islam and Shibir blasted several hundred homemade cocktails.
The Islamists marched down at least six highways and took position at the entry points of the city, stopping road transport and cutting off Dhaka's road links with rest of the country while raising slogans of "Allah-u-Akbar!" (God is great!) and "One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged".