Unknown attackers on Tuesday killed a Christian convert in northwestern Bangladesh, marking the fourth slaying of a member of one of the country’s religious minorities in 2016.
Police said that at least two assailants hacked to death 68-year-old Hossain Ali Shorkar in Kurigram, the main town in Kurigram district where some 500 Christian families live.
“Hossain Ali used to go for a morning walk every day. As he was returning home from his walk at around 7 a.m., two or three motorcyclists hacked him on the shoulder from behind with a sharp weapon. He died immediately,” Mohammad Tabard Ullah, the district’s superintendent of police, told BenarNews by phone.
The motive for the attack was not immediately known. Hossain had been embroiled in a property dispute with a tenant over the ownership of his house, Ullah said.
“He [the tenant] has been missing since yesterday. We are looking for him to ascertain whether he had any link with the murder,” the local police chief superintendent said, adding that Hossain’s killers exploded Molotov cocktails as they fled the scene by motorbike.
Relatives of the dead man told police that the missing tenant had also engaged Hossain in a debate about Christianity and Islam, Ullah said.
Hossain converted to Christianity 26 years ago, according to Jahangir Michael, the head of the district branch of the Bangladesh Christian Association.
“In Kurigram district, we have 500 Protestant Christian families who have been living in the district peacefully. I think no local people have been involved in the attack,” Michael told BenarNews.
“This is an act of the militants. He was killed for his faith,” said Michael, adding that Hossain Ali’s daughter and son-in-law were involved in preaching Christianity in the district.
“We are now scared about our security,” Michael said.
One of Hossain’s neighbors, Azad, told BenarNews that Hossain mixed with people of all faiths.
“We do not believe that the local people killed him; outsiders murdered him,” said Azad, 25, a student at a local college.
Hossain was the second convert to Christianity and the fourth member of a religious minority slain this year in majority Sunni Muslim Bangladesh, after militants issued threats against minorities in 2015.
On Jan. 7, suspected militants fatally stabbed an 87-year-old homeopathic doctor and Christian convert, Samir Uddin, in southwestern Jhenaidah district. On Feb. 21, Hindu priest Moharaja Jogeshwar Roy was killed and two other men were injured in an attack at a temple in the northern district of Panchagarh.
And on March 15, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the killing earlier in the month of 45-year-old Abdul Razzaq, a member of the minority Shiite Muslim community who also lived in Jhenaidah, Reuters reported.
The Bangladesh government has consistently denied that IS has a presence in the country and has blamed home-grown militants for carrying out attacks targeting religious minorities.
“The Christians have become common targets of the militants. The government must ensure the safety of all minorities including the Christians,” Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, told BenarNews on Tuesday.