Four days after suspected Islamist militants killed a publisher of secular books and injured three other people in Dhaka, unknown assailants Wednesday stabbed a policeman to death and injured four other cops at a security checkpoint near Bangladesh’s capital.
Wednesday’s attack was connected to separate attacks on two publishers and two writers on Saturday, the Oct. 22 stabbing death of a policeman at a checkpoint in Dhaka, the recent killings of two foreigners as well as a series of murders targeting secular bloggers, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
"All incidents are inter-linked. The attack on the police was similar to that on the bloggers and publishers. We will handle it with an iron hand," the minister told BenarNews, a day after he was publicly criticized for describing the weekend attacks on the publishers and writers as “isolated incidents.”
On Wednesday, Constable Mukul Hossain tried to stop a Dhaka-bound motorcycle carrying two youths at a checkpoint on the Dhaka-Tangail Highway in Savar, an industrial suburb some 30 km (18.6 miles) from the capital, police said.
“They stopped and suddenly started hacking Mukul with knives. The attackers chased Mukul to a nearby restaurant and knifed him repeatedly and fled the scene,” Assistant Superintendent of Police Nazmul Hasan Kiron told journalists, referring to the men on the motorbike.
Four fellow policemen were also injured – one of them critically – while trying to protect Hossain.
Witness Abdul Halim, 25, told BenarNews that the incident took place at around 7:30 a.m. He attackers fired shots before fleeing the scene.
Constable Nur Alam suffered a serious knife injury, Rafiqul Islam, a physician at Savar’s Enam Medical Hospital, told BenarNews.
A plot to destabilize the country: minister
The home minister spoke to journalists after rushing to the hospital.
“The trial of the militants and [the executions of] war criminals have been nearing. So some groups have been doing this to stop the trials and destabilize the country,” Kamal told reporters on Wednesday after visiting the injured policemen. He was referring to the trials of suspected war criminals from Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a leader from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and former minister Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, have been awaiting execution for crimes against humanity committed 44 years ago. Two Jamaat leaders, Abdul Kader Molla, and M. Qamaruzzaman, have been executed.
Kamal told reporters that the assailants in the inter-linked attacks were branding themselves as the JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh), Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), Harket-u-Jihad or as IS (Islamic State).
The minister, however, has repeatedly rejected reports of IS claiming responsibility for the murders of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella on Sept. 28 and Japanese farmer Kunio Hoshi on Oct. 3.
Police suspect that JMB, a banned militant group, carried out the Oct. 31 attacks on two publishing houses in Dhaka that printed the books of the late Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death in the capital on Feb. 26, 2015. Roy was one of five secular bloggers slain with machetes in five separate attacks since February 2013, with four of attacks carried out this year alone.
On Saturday, Faisal Arefin Dipan, the 42-year-old proprietor of the Jagriti publishing house, was found slain inside his office at the Aziz Super Market. Another publishing house, Shuddhoshor, came under an attack by machete-wielding men in the city’s Lalmatia area less than an hour earlier, according to reports. Owner Ahmedur Rashid Tutul was seriously injured along with blogger Tareq Rahim and writer Ranadipam Basu.
Ansar ul-Islam, a local affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS), claimed responsibility for both attacks in messages posted on Twitter, according to reports.