DHAKA: Hundreds of thousands of hardline Islamists demanding a new blasphemy law blocked highways and fought running battles with police, leaving three people dead in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Sunday, police said.
Chanting "God is greatest!" and "One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged", activists from Hefajat-e-Islam marched along at least six highways, blocking transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns.
Police officials told AFP that about 200,000 people had marched to central Dhaka, where fierce clashes erupted between thousands of rock-throwing protesters and security officials. "At least 100,000 protesters" blocked the road at Tongi town, which connects Dhaka with the northern region, local police chief Ismail Hossain told AFP.
Witnesses said rioting broke out after police tried to intercept stick-wielding protesters, most travelling from remote villages, in front of the country's largest mosque. Trouble then spread to central districts of Dhaka.