Bangladesh: Hindu Temple Worker Killed in Suspected Militant Attack

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
160701-BD-hindu-620.jpg Bystanders gather in Jhenaidah, Bangladesh, after a Hindu temple worker, Shyamananda Das, was hacked to death, July 1, 2016.

Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET on 2016-07-01

A Hindu temple worker was hacked to death Friday in southwestern Bangladesh, police said, bringing to five the number of minority Hindus slain by suspected extremists nationwide in separate attacks since April 30.

The victim of Friday’s attack in Jhenaidah district, Shyamananda Das, was the third Hindu killed in an attack apparently motivated by religion in less than a month, according to police. Apart from two killings of Hindus in June alone, a Hindu college lecturer in mathematics last month survived an attack by machete-wielding assailants, and the head priest of an Indian Hindu mission in Dhaka also received a death-threat letter from suspected militants, officials said.

Despite the recent killings, Bangladesh, an majority Muslim nation, has long been known for relatively peaceful relations between Muslims and Hindus.

“The style of killing is similar with the previous killings: three motorcyclists came and hacked on head and shoulder and left quickly. This is a targeted killing. The priest was a very good person who had no enemies,” Azbahar Ali Shaikh, the additional superintendent of police in Jhenaidah, told BenarNews, referring to the latest killing.

Das, 50, had worked at the Sri Sri Radhamodan Gopal Bigroho Moth temple-school in Jhenaidah, some 200 km from Dhaka, for a year and a half, Shaikh said, adding that militants were suspected of being behind the attack.

“But until the investigation is over, we cannot pinpoint that the militants killed him,” he added.

Meanwhile, SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based website that monitors extremist communications online, said that ‘Amaq, the news agency of extremist group Islamic State, was reporting via social media that IS fighters had assassinated the Hindu man in Jehanaidah.

Also on Friday, police in Dhaka said they had arrested a suspected militant and mastermind of the June 15 non-fatal attack on college math lecturer Ripon Chakraborty. Militant leader Khaled Saifullah, who allegedly planned the machete attack on the professor, was arrested Thursday night, Monirul Islam, the chief of the Bangladeshi police’s counter-terrorism unit, told a news conference.

Escalation in anti-Hindu attacks

The killing of Das followed the slayings of four other Hindus by suspected militants, according to police: Nitya Ranjan Pandey, 60, who was killed in Pabna district on June 10; priest Anand Gopal Ganguly, 69, who was killed on June 7 in Jhenaidah district; trader Debesh Chandra Pramanik in Gaibandha district on May 25; and tailor Nikhil Joarder, 50, who was killed in Tangail district on April 30.

On Friday in New Delhi, India’s Ministry of External Affairs commented after the latest killing.

“Our High Commission in Dhaka closely monitors incidents targeting the religious, socio-economic and political freedom of the minorities in Bangladesh and raises these issues with the Bangladeshi authorities appropriately,” said Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the ministry.

“The Government of Bangladesh has assured us that they are fully committed to safeguarding minority rights, that many of the incidents are not communal in nature and arise from disputes of a political or private nature and that stern action would be taken against the culprits,” he added.

The killings of the Hindus have taken place amid a spate of murders carried out in Bangladesh since February 2013 by suspected militants who have targeted religious minorities, secular bloggers, intellectuals and, gay-rights activists and foreigners.

IS has claimed some of these killings but Bangladeshi officials have consistently rejected those claims, saying that the group has no presence in the country and that home-grown radicals instead have carried out such attacks.

“The killings are aimed at creating disturbances in the country,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews, referring to the escalation of attacks targeting Hindus in recent weeks.

Rohit Wadhwaney in Gopalpur, India, contributed to this report.


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