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Bangladesh riots: Prime suspect Iqbal Hossain arrested from Cox's Bazar

Bangladesh: Iqbal Hossain is accused of keeping the Holy Quran at a Durga Puja venue, triggering violence in Comilla and other places.
The violence took place in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festival following a social media post about the alleged desecration of the Quran at a Durga Puja pandal in Comilla district (AFP)
Updated on Oct 22, 2021 09:32 AM IST
Written by Joydeep Bose | Edited by Sohini Goswami, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Hours after one Iqbal Hossain was identified by the Bangladesh police as the key suspect in instigating the recent violence in Comilla and other places, he was arrested from Cox's Bazar on Thursday, according to a report by Dhaka Tribune that cited the Comilla superintendent of police (SP), Faruk Ahmed.

The senior officer said Hossain, who was earlier accused of keeping the Islamic holy book Quran at a Durga Puja venue, was nabbed from the Shugandha beach area of Cox's Bazar around 10.10pm.

The Bangladeshi newspaper also cited Cox's Bazar additional police superintendent Md Rafiqul Islam, who confirmed the development and said Hossain was sent to Comilla “right away” after the arrest.

The 35-year-old Hossain, hailing from the Suhanagar area of Comilla, allegedly placed the Holy Quran at one of the Durga Puja pandals on October 13, which triggered the violence killing at least three persons. The man was identified after police analysed hours of video footage from CCTV cameras installed at Durga Puja venues.

Hossain, in the footage, could be seen taking the Quran from a local mosque and entering a Durga Puja site. He was later seen walking away with a club, taken from an idol of Lord Hanuman.

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Several Hindu temples in Bangladesh were ransacked later amid violent protests after the video footage went viral on social media posts that showed the Quran being placed at the feet of a Hindu idol. On Sunday, a mob damaged 66 houses and set on fire at least 20 homes of Hindus.

Police said over 450 suspected temple attackers have been arrested so far in different parts of the country. Forty-one of them have been arrested for the Comilla incident and four of them are Hossain's associates.

The attacks on Hindus in the Muslim-majority country are, however, not new; human rights groups say there has been a “continual pattern” of attacks on religious minorities over nearly a decade and the recent spree in violence has only managed to reopen old wounds. According to estimates provided by a Deutsche Welle report citing Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a Bangladeshi human rights organisation that documents attacks on minority communities, there have been over 3,600 attacks in Bangladesh targeting Hindus since 2013. Other groups, however, note that the actual number of attacks could be much higher than what the ASK has estimated.

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