EU calls for end to attacks on Bangladeshs religious minorities

The European Union Wednesday appealed to Bangladesh's new government to take "strong action" against attacks on religious minorities.

"Many NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other organisations have contacted the European Commission (EU) expressing their concern over the current level of violence, especially against (religious) minority groups," the EU envoy in Dhaka, Antonio de Souza Menezes, said in a statement carried by the Bangladesh Observer newspaper.

Religious minorities in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh say they have faced numerous attacks since the country's October 1 general election. A coalition group of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians said minorities were being targeted because they were judged to be supporters of the defeated Awami League.

The Prothom Alo daily newspaper said Wednesday that large numbers of Hindus had reported attacks, including rapes. It said many Hindus have already fled Bangladesh, while others were preparing to do so.

The EU envoy said he had raised the matter with leaders of the Islamic-aligned Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which, with its allies, is set to form the new government later Wednesday. "I strongly urge the new government to take immediate actions to stop it and maintain law and order in such areas where attacks are taking place on minorities and their property," he added.

The BNP has denied its supporters are involved in such incidents and Zia has condemned violence against minorities, saying Bangladeshis of all faiths should be treated with respect.

The defeated Awami League, led by outgoing prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has agreed to work to protect minority communities around the country.