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10 killed in Bangladesh arson attack

By Farid Ahmed, CNN
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Clashes at a refugee camp left 10 people dead in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 14, authorities say.
Clashes at a refugee camp left 10 people dead in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 14, authorities say.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Arson attack, riots leave 10 people living Dhaka refugee camp dead
  • Most victims are women and children, says relief officer
  • Security forces disperse angry crowds with tear gas

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- At least 10 people living in a squalid refugee camp in the capital of Bangladesh died in a riot and arson attack Saturday, police and other government officials said.

"Most of the victims are women and children and the government has already ordered an investigation," district relief and rehabilitation officer Ekramul Haque told CNN.

Police and witnesses said violent clashes erupted between locals and people living in the camp, who are widely known as "stranded Pakistanis," in the Mirpur district of Dhaka.

The incident followed an altercation when a group of children set off firecrackers during a religious event earlier on Saturday.

Police said nine people were burned to death while the other was shot dead during the clashes.

Urdu-speaking camp residents allege that several hundred Bengalis carrying machetes and logs attacked the shanty town and set fire to their houses; firefighters later extinguished the flames.

Police told CNN they opened fire and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the angry mob; they said they detained more than 50 people at the scene.

A leader of the refugees, Abdul Jabbar Khan, claimed the attack was a part of a move by local influential politicians who wanted to evict the refugees from the camps.

But Elias Mollah, a member of parliament from Mirpur, who belongs to the ruling Awami League party, denied the allegations.

Khan who heads the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC) told CNN about 2,000 people were living in the camp when it came under attack on Saturday.

He said about 300,000 Urdu-speaking people live on government land in around 70 shanty towns, known as "Bihari camps."

During the partition of India in 1947, several hundred thousand Muslims, mostly from the Indian state of Bihar, came to Dhaka and other cities in what is now Bangladesh.

After Bangladesh gained independence, Pakistan refused to repatriate most of the Urdu-speaking people and they remained stranded in refugee camps.

In 2008, Bangladesh's Supreme Court ruled that those who were born after independence had the right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

12 dead, dozens missing after Bangladesh ferry capsizes

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