Hardliners stage massive rally in support of Rohingya in Bangladesh, to march on Myanmar embassy

A Bangladeshi border guard sends a Rohingya woman and child back to their makeshift camp along the border with Myanmar near Gundum, Bangladesh, on Aug 31, 2017.
A Bangladeshi border guard sends a Rohingya woman and child back to their makeshift camp along the border with Myanmar near Gundum, Bangladesh, on Aug 31, 2017.PHOTO: NYTIMES

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh police braced on Monday (Sept 18) as more than 10,000 Islamist hardliners marched on the Myanmar embassy to protest against the violence driving the Rohingya Muslim minority out of the Buddhist-majority nation.

A huge crowd of demonstrators in white robes chanting, "God is great," assembled outside Bangladesh's largest mosque ahead of the planned "siege" of the Myanmar embassy in the capital Dhaka.

Police ramped up security amid fears of violence after the hardline Hefazat-e-Islami group vowed to station hundreds of thousands of followers outside the diplomatic mission.

"So far, more than 10,000 people have joined the protest," local police chief Mahmudul Haq said, adding that extra officers had been deployed across the city.

Hefazat officials put the figure much higher, saying more followers would join the demonstration throughout the day.

The UN says more than 410,000 Rohingya refugees have poured into Bangladesh since a fresh outbreak of violence in Myanmar's western-most Rakhine state on Aug 25.

Many of those crossing the border bring harrowing tales of rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar's security forces and Buddhist mobs.

The plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority who are reviled and denied citizenship in Myanmar, has roused emotion across the Islamic world, with protests held in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Images purportedly showing atrocities against the Rohingya have flooded Bangladeshi social media, triggering an outpouring of sympathy.

Separate rallies in Bangladesh attracted at least 15,000 supporters who chanted slogans against Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Many homegrown Islamist groups are calling on the government to go to war with Myanmar and liberate Rakhine for the persecuted Rohingya minority.