Bangladesh Accuses Rohingya Muslims of Attacking Buddhists

Posted October 1st, 2012 at 10:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The Bangladeshi government is accusing Rohingya Muslims from Burma of involvement in a wave of Muslim attacks on Buddhist temples in southeastern Bangladesh on Saturday and Sunday.

Bangladeshi Home Affairs Minister Mohiuddun Khan Alamgir Monday said Rohingyas were among the thousands of anti-Buddhist rioters who vandalized and looted at least 10 Buddhist temples and dozens of homes in the district of Cox's Bazaar, bordering Burma. He also accused radical Islamists and opposition party activists of instigating the riots as a “premeditated and deliberate” attempt to disrupt communal harmony.

The attacks began late Saturday after local Muslims found a photo of a burned Quran on Facebook. Rioters who deemed the photo offensive to Islam blamed it on a Buddhist man and went on the rampage in minority Buddhist areas, looting property including statues of Buddha.

Bangladeshi authorities deployed extra security forces in Cox's Bazaar on Monday to protect Buddhists, who make up less than 1 percent of Bangladesh's population and live close to the border with Buddhist-majority Burma, also known as Myanmar. Bangladeshi Home Affairs Minister Alamgir said security personnel also have detained 166 people in connection with the riots.

A Bangladeshi military officer said security forces have set up tents for Buddhists displaced by the riots. Alamgir said the government will help the Buddhists to rebuild their damaged properties.

The Buddhist man accused of sparking the riots denied posting the burned Quran photo on his Facebook account, saying someone else had “tagged” him in the picture. Bangladeshi police have taken the man and his family members into protective custody. His Facebook account was closed.

Tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in western Burma's Rakhine state escalated into violence in June, killing about 90 people. Many Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape the fighting.

Burma refuses to recognize its estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims as an ethnic group and denies them citizenship. Many Burmese consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Rohingya Muslims also are denied citizenship in Bangladesh, which says the group has been living in Burma for centuries.