September 30, 2012 – Updated 1158 PKT
DHAKA: Thousands of rioters torched Buddhist temples and homes in southeastern Bangladesh Sunday over a photo posted on Facebook deemed offensive to Islam, in a rare attack against the community.
Officials said the mob comprising some 25,000 people set fire to at least five Buddhist temples and dozens of homes in Ramu town and its adjoining villages, some 350 kilometres (216 miles) from the capital Dhaka.
The rioters claimed the photo allegedly defaming the Koran was uploaded on Facebook by a Buddhist man from the area, district administrator Joinul Bari said. “They became unruly and attacked Buddhist houses, torching and damaging their temples from midnight to Sunday morning,” he told AFP.
“At least 100 houses were damaged. We called in army and border guards to quell the violence,” he said, adding that authorities had temporarily banned public gatherings in the area to prevent further clashes. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Buddhists, who make up less than one percent of Bangladesh’s 153 million population are based mainly in southeastern districts, close to the border with Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Sectarian tensions have been running high since June when deadly clashes erupted between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.
Although Bangladesh has witnessed deadly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in the past, sectarian clashes involving Buddhists are rare. In recent weeks tens of thousands of Muslims have hit the street across the country to protest a US-made anti-Islam film.