Clashes between ethnic Bengalis and Bihari refugees have left nine people dead in a camp in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Emergency services said on Saturday that eight people had died at the refugee camp in Mirpur, a northern suburb of the capital, and another person had later died at hospital in central Dhaka from shotgun injuries.

Officials said that police had fired shotgun pellets to disperse rioters.

Most those who had died had burned to death after their homes were torched during the clashes, the AFP news agency reported.

Kamal Hossain, a police official, said the clashes were triggered by firecracker explosions marking the Islamic festival of Shab-e-Barat.

Witnesses reported that a group of about 500 Bengalis armed with machetes and hockey sticks had attacked the camp.

"They locked up four of our houses from outside and then set them on fire," said Mohamed Shahjahan, a resident of the camp. 

Shahjahan added that he and his family were able to escape because the walls in his house were made of bamboo but other residents had been trapped in their homes.

Partition legacy

Mirpur is home to a large community of Biharis, an Urdu-speaking Muslim group that migrated to what was then East Pakistan from India after partition.

Although not all came from the Indian state of Bihar, they are referred to as "Biharis" in Bangladesh.

Anti-Bihari sentiment runs high in Bangladesh because most Biharis supported Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence.

Many Biharis are denied Bangladeshi citizenship, and Pakistan, where many Biharis would like to move to, has avoided talks on repatriation despite repeated requests by Dhaka for a settlement, the Reuters news agency reported.

Half a million Bihari Muslims have since lived in slum-like refugee camps, often without basic amenities.

Source: Agencies