A Sufi Muslim leader in Bangladesh has been hacked to death in a case which police believe could have stemmed from a dispute over land or religious beliefs.
The body of Mohammad Shahidullah, 65, was found in a pool of blood in a mango farm near the north Bangladeshi town of Rajshahi on Friday, according to police.
The killing came amid rising concerns over a wave of machete killings by suspected Islamic extremists against religious minorities, liberal activists and foreigners in Bangladesh. Over the last five weeks, about a dozen such murders had been reported.
But police were quoted saying that it was too soon to declare that Islamic militants were behind the latest killing.
Nisarul Arif, superintendent of police in Rajshahi, told The Daily Star newspaper that police investigations are "focusing on two possible reasons."
Shahidullah's involvement in Sufism might have “hurt” somebody, or it was a consequence of land dispute, he said, according to the newspaper.
Abul Kalam Azad, another police officer in Rajshahi, was quoted in The New York Times that the attack on Shahidullah differed from the others in that it did not appear to have been carried out in the open, but rather in a secluded field.
When asked if the police suspected Islamist militants, Azad said it was too soon to tell, according to the report.
Shahidullah was a local leader in Sufism, the mystical form of Islam popular in rural Bangladesh, but considered deviant by many of the country's majority Sunni Muslims, including the Saudi Arabia-inspired Salafis and Wahabis, who are gaining strength in the country, Agence France-Presse reported.
Sufis have been targeted in several of the 37 suspected Islamist attacks recorded by police in the past three years, it said. In September the custodian of a Sufi shrine and his assistant were killed in the port city of Chittagong.
Shahidulah's son, Russel Ahmed, filed a murder case over his father's death with a local police station on Friday.
In the case statement, he mentioned his father as a “spiritual Sufi leader” and that those against Sufism had threatened him in the past, according to The Daily Star.
In the past five weeks, two gay activists, a liberal professor, an atheist activist and a Hindu tailor had been hacked to death.
Islamic militants have been blamed for or claimed dozens of murders of atheist bloggers, liberal voices and religious minorities in recent years including Sufi, Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners.