Less than 24 hours after Bangladesh police announced a bounty on six Islamic militants suspected in a string of recent killings, unknown assailants on Friday hacked to death a village doctor and seriously injured his friend, a university teacher.
Police said Sanaur Rahman, 58, died from a machete attack similar to those which claimed the lives of secular bloggers, publishers, writers, gay rights activists and other minorities since February 2013.
A statement by the “Amaq News Agency of the Islamic State” claimed that IS fighters in Bangladesh had killed the doctor, who had been “called to Christianity,” according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. company that monitors extremist messaging.
Bangladesh authorities have rejected such claims in the past, claiming that local militant groups are trying “to add value to their names.”
The incident occurred in the southwestern district of Kushtia where police on May 15 arrested a member of the banned outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) on charges related to the April 25 hacking deaths of gay rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.
Hours earlier, the government issued a red alert at all air and land ports, in a bid to prevent six suspected killers from leaving the country, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters. He told BenarNews that Rahman’s killers would be captured.
The most recent killing raises the number of machete attack victims to 30 since the Feb. 15, 2013 killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider – the first victim of the ABT, according to the home ministry. A septuagenarian Buddhist monk was hacked to death on May 14 in southeastern Bandarban district.
Free medical care
Shahabuddin Chowdhury, the officer-in-charge of Kushtia police station, told BenarNews that Rahman, a folk music enthusiast and homeopathic doctor, and Saifuz Zaman, an assistant professor at the Islamic University in Kushtia, were attacked at mid-morning.
“Their motorcycle came under attack at around 9:45 a.m.,” Chowdhury said.
He said police were not sure if the killing was in retaliation for the arrest of ABT member Shariful Islam Shihab.
“We are investigating the murder from all angles. What the local people have told us that Sanaur had a disagreement with some people over land ownership. Until the investigation is over, we cannot say whether he was murdered for his faith,” Chowdhury said.
Rahman had offered local people free medical care for years and arranged concerts at his village.
Professor Habibur Rahman, a language teacher at the Islamic University, told BenarNews that his colleague Zaman had been involved in research at India’s Visva-Bharati University.
“He came back home from Visva-Bharat and joined our department about three months ago. Zaman developed a friendship with Sanaur Rahman,” Habibur Rahman said.
On Thursday evening, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) issued the alert on its official website asking people to help capture six alleged ABT members involved in previous killings.
Police announced rewards of Tk 500,000 (U.S. $6,360) for information about the whereabouts of “Shariful” and “Selim,” and Tk 200,000 (U.S. $2,544) for leads on four other men identified as Sifat, Abdus Samad, Shihab and Sajjad.
DMP claimed Shariful participated in the killing of Bangladeshi-American engineer and blogger Avijit Roy in February 2015, and Selim participated in the hacking death of Mannan and Tonoy last month.
“We have issued the alert as they are either the killers or the masterminds of the killings of the bloggers and others,” spokesman Maruf Hasan Sarder told BenarNews.
Avijit Roy’s father, Ajay Roy, expressed his frustration about his son’s murder investigation.
“About a month ago, the DMP commissioner said three of the killers fled from Bangladesh. Now they declare bounty for six killers. I am not satisfied at all with the way the police have been investigating,” he told BenarNews on Friday.
Syed Mahfuzul Haque Marjan, a lecturer of criminology department at Dhaka University, told BenarNews that announcing the bounty and releasing photos might not lead to arrests.