DHAKA - Religious tension gripped southern Bangladesh on Sunday, September 30, after a Buddhist a photo deemed a desecrated Qur'an, sending angry Muslim residents into rampage to attack temples and houses.
"They became unruly and attacked Buddhist houses, torching and damaging their temples from midnight to Sunday morning," district administrator Joinul Bari told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"At least 100 houses were damaged. We called in army and border guards to quell the violence."
A photo of a desecrated Qur'an was posted by a Buddhist on the social networking website Facebook.
Angry with the photo, Muslim residents marched to attack Buddhist temples and houses in the area.
Police officer Rumia Khatun said thousands of Muslims attacked a Buddhist hamlet in Ramu, torching centuries-old temples, and later stormed Buddhist villages outside the town.
Witnesses said the rioters left a trail of devastation at the Buddhist villages.
"I have seen 11 wooden temples, two of them 300 years old, torched by the mob. They looted precious items and Buddha statues from the temples," said Sunil Barua, a Buddhist local journalist.
Shops owned by Buddhists were also looted.
The offensive photo comes amid Muslim fury over a US-made film insulting Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
The movie sparked protests around the world, which left scores of people dead, including the US ambassador to Libya.
Sectarian tensions have been running high since June when deadly clashes erupted between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in Burma's western Rakhine state.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee their homes in Rakhine after the killing of ten Muslims in an attack by Buddhist vigilantes on their bus.
Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya Muslims with killing, rape and arrest following the unrest.
Bangladeshi police sent extra forces to control the religious violence in the area.
"We brought the situation under control before dawn and imposed restrictions on public gatherings," Salim Mohammad Jahangir, Cox's Bazaar district police superintendent, told Reuters.
At least 20 people have been injured as police decided to ban public gatherings temporarily.
Police had escorted the man accused of posting the insulting photograph and his mother to safety, Jahangir said.
Sohel Sarwar Kajal, the head of the Muslim council in the area where the arson took place, urged Muslims and Buddhists to restore communal peace.
"We are doing everything possible to quell tension and restore peace between the communities," he told reporters.
Buddhists make up less than one percent of Bangladesh's 153-million population and reside mainly in southeastern districts, close to the border with Buddhist-majority Burma.Although Bangladesh, where nearly 90 percent people are Muslims, has witnessed deadly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in the past, sectarian clashes involving Buddhists are rare.