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+++Hundreds of thousands of marchers call for law that would include death penalty for bloggers who they say insult Islam.+++
Hundreds of thousands of people have held protests in Bangladesh to demand that the government introduce an anti-blasphemy law that would include the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam.
Protest organisers called Saturday's rally the "long march", with many travelling from remote villages to the capital, Dhaka's Motijheel area that became a sea of white skull caps and robes.
Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist group which draws support from tens of thousands of religious seminaries, converged on Dhaka's main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting "God is great - hang the atheist bloggers".
"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed," said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km.
"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed."
The religious group, which has the backing of country's largest party Jamaat-e-Islami, organised the rally in support of its 13-point demand including enactment of a blasphemy law to prosecute and hang what they call atheist bloggers.
"Around 200,000 people attended the rally," Dhaka's deputy police commissioner Sheikh Nazmul Alam told AFP news agency, while protest organisers put the number at over half a million.
Al Jazeera's correspondent, who cannot be named for safety reasons, speaking from Dhaka, said that very huge crowds had gathered.
The bloggers, who deny they are atheists, have sought capital punishment for those found guilty of war crimes during the nation's liberation war.
A well-known protester and blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed reportedly by Jamaat supporters.
Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, speaking to Al Jazeera's via Skype from Dhaka, said that while the government was had maintained a "neutral line" and was "scrambling" to prevent an "explosive" situation, he believed it was unlikely that a blasphemy law would be introduced.
Saturday's 'long march' was organised by the Hefazat-e-Islam, which draws support from thousands of seminaries [AFP]
Last week, four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiment through their Internet writings against Islam.
Muhiuddin Khan, Bangladesh home minister, said on Wednesday the government had identified 11 bloggers, including the four detainees, who had hurt the religious sentiments of the nation's majority Muslim population.
The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the unrest. It has also set up a panel, which includes intelligence chiefs, to monitor blasphemy on social media.
Under the country's cyber laws, a blogger or Internet writer can face up to ten years in jail for defaming a religion.