The protesters are reportedly the activists from the Hefajat-e-Islam group, which blames some Internet users for blasphemy; accusing people of using their blogs to spread atheism and apparent lies about Islam.

"One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged", chanted the demonstrators as they marched along at least six highways, blocking transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns.

The demonstrators gathered in the capital’s Motijheel commercial district, amounting to between 150,000 to 200,000 people according to AFP. On their way, they set shops and vehicles on fire, according to police accounts.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters after they reportedly set off homemade explosives and threw stones at security. Local authorities had to deploy more than 15,000 security forces to the area.