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Bangladesh protest over COVID curbs turns violent, three shot

Screenshot 2021-04-07 074030

A protest over police enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in rural Bangladesh turned violent when a mob of demonstrators attacked a police station, resulting in at least three people being shot, police and a doctor said.

The incident took place late on Monday in the central town of Saltha in the Faridpur district where, according to the police, rumours had spread about a man being injured in a police sweep of a market aimed at enforcing health measures to curb the spread of COVID.

Thousands of villagers took to the streets in anger. A group of them hurled bricks at a police station and vandalised government offices in the town, torching an officer’s home and two cars belonging to government officials, police said.

“Police fired in self-defence after they attacked the police station,” a police spokesman in Faridpur district told AFP news agency.

A second police official, Inspector Nur-a-Alam Fakir, confirmed the incident.

Police did not give any casualty figures, but Abdul Matin, a doctor at the emergency ward of the state-run Faridpur Medical College Hospital, said three people were in critical condition after suffering gunshot wounds.

“One of them was hit in his buttocks, another in his chest and the third person was shot in both legs,” he told AFP.

Bangladesh on Monday instituted a seven-day nationwide lockdown after coronavirus cases reached record highs and fatalities skyrocketed in recent weeks.

On Sunday, at least 7,087 people tested positive for the virus, the highest daily case total since the virus was first detected in the South Asian nation in March 2020.

All domestic travel services – including buses, ferries, trains and flights – have been suspended, and shops and malls will be shut for a week. A nighttime curfew is in effect.

Hundreds of shopkeepers also protested in the capital Dhaka over the lockdown, saying it would disproportionately affect their businesses.

Two officers said supporters of the hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, joined the attack on the police station at Saltha.

Tens of thousands of Hefazat supporters staged nationwide demonstrations against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi late last month, which triggered deadly clashes with police.

There was no immediate comment from Hefazat over police claims of their involvement in the incident in Saltha.