Hindu monastery worker hacked to death in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Buddhist monks give out iftar meals, food for breaking the daytime fast, to Bangladeshi Muslims in the main shrine of Dhammarajika Monastery in Dhaka on July 6, 2015. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Dhaka Jun 10, 2016, 07.48 AM (IST)
Unidentified attackers hacked a 62-year-old Hindu monastery worker to death in Bangladesh's Pabna district on Friday, police said, the latest in a series of such attacks on religious minorities in the mainly Muslim country.

The latest murder came as Bangladeshi police announced a special week-long crackdown on militants as they ramp up their efforts to stem the killings with five members of a banned Islamist outfit killed in gunbattles with officers in the past three days.

Nityaranjan Pande was taking his regular early morning walk when the attackers set upon him, killing him on the spot, police said.

"As a diabetic, everyday he walks early in the morning. Today as he was walking, several attackers hacked him in the neck. He died on the spot," local police station chief Abdullah Al-Hasan told AFP.

"He had been working at the monastery for about 40 years. In recent years he was the head of its office staff," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The head of police in the northwestern district of Pabna, where the Shri Shri Thakur Anukulchandra Ashram is located, said the killing bore the hallmarks of recent attacks by Islamist extremists on minorities and secular activists.

"There was no eye-witness to the attack as it happened very early in the morning," Alamgir Kabir told AFP.

Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of murders of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities that have left nearly 50 people dead in the past three years.

Police crackdown

The murders have spiked in recent weeks with a gruesome wave of killings that has spanned from the capital Dhaka to remote parts of the north and coastal south.

In the past week alone, an elderly Hindu priest was found nearly decapitated in a rice field, a Christian grocer was hacked to death near a church, while the wife of an anti-terrorism officer was found stabbed and shot.

Her husband had led several high-profile operations against the banned Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an Islamist militant group, in the southeastern city of Chittagong.

Most of the latest attacks have been claimed either by the Islamic State group or by a South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has, however, blamed homegrown Islamists for the attacks, rejecting claims of responsibility from IS and Al-Qaeda.

The JMB is one of the main domestic militant outfits in the frame for the murders with police shooting dead five members of the group since Tuesday.

Shahidul Hoque, inspector general of police, vowed in an address to a meeting of top police officials in Dhaka Thursday that those involved in the killing of the police officer's wife would be "brought to justice very soon".

Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on Bangladesh's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.

Victims of the attacks by suspected Islamists have included secular bloggers, gay rights activists and followers of minority religions.

Although it is officially secular, about 90 per cent of Bangladesh's 160 million-strong population is Muslim. Some eight per cent of the population is Hindu.