DHAKA–A Hindu priest was slaughtered by a biker gang in South Western Bangladesh on June 7, two days after the brutal murders of the wife of a top anti-terror police official and a Christian grocer in Chittagong and Natore respectively.
The priest, identified as Ananda Gopal Ganguly (70), was killed around 9.30am near Naldanga Bazaar of Jhenidah district while he was on his way to perform ‘puja’ (prayers) nearby, said sources of Jhenidah Sadar police circle.
Witnesses said three people on a motorcycle waylaid him near Sonakhali canal before attacking him.
The priest’s killing was similar to previous murders, police officials said. Ganguly was first shot and then hacked to death.
The US-based SITE intelligence group, which keeps monitoring online activities of jihadists, said Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of Ganguly, whose head was nearly severed.
The incident comes two days after the murder of Mahmuda Khanam Mitu in Chittagong.
Militant organizations have not yet made any claims over the killing of Mitu.
Local law enforcing agency officials are investigating the possible role of militants in Mitu’s murder. Her husband, police official Babul Akter, had led many counter-terrorism raids against local militant organizations.
Less than six hours after Mitu’s murder, a small store owner was murdered in Natore. The Christian trader Sunil Gomes (65) was stabbed while at work in his store, police officials said.
According to SITE, IS has claimed responsibility for the murder of Gomes.
Security analysts in Bangladesh link the spate of murders to a small group of local militants who, they say, want to create a sense of insecurity in Bangladesh.
Sunil Gomes was stabbed to death at his store in Bonpara village of Natore, according to local police superintendent Shymal Kumar Mukherjee.
“Gomes had a small store and he was in it when the criminals attacked him around noon,” Mukherjee said to Asia Times.
According to police sources, the grocer was struck from behind with sharp weapons.
“So far, we have arrested one suspect ,” said Mukherjee.
Early morning the same day, while accompanying her six-year old son to the bus stop, Mitu was stabbed and then shot in the head by three bikers.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) Commissioner Iqbal Bahar said to Asia Times, “We have recovered the motorcycle the assailants were using.”
Bahar is hopeful that the attackers will be identified through footage captured by a number of CCTV cameras installed along the road where the murder had occurred.
Mitu’s husband Babul Akter is superintendent of the Chittagong Metropolitan Police based in Dhaka. CMP sources said the murder may be an act of revenge as he had led raids against the banned militant local organization Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) as well as some drug cartels.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said: “His (Akter’s) wife was attacked in his absence …. There might be militant links behind the murder. They killed his wife because they failed to get him.”
Friends and peers of Akter were shocked by his wife’s murder.
A friend, who has known Akter for over nine years, said: “Babul has had interest in counter-terrorism since I first met him. He was recently promoted as SP for his brilliant work against militancy.”
He added, “The fact that his family was targeted sends a clear message by the militants that no one is safe in this country.”
With the murders of Ganguly, Gomes and Mitu, the number of such killings has risen to 48. Newspapers in Bangladesh reported 30 killings in 2015 and 17 in 2016 so far. In most cases, the victims were shot and hacked to death. After the attacks, either Islamic State or Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killings while law enforcement officials in Bangladesh denied these claims.
Security analysts think the attacks are being carried out by “a well-trained and properly-led group.”
Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, a security expert, said: “The group is most likely small and they do not have the resources to become a political force. Hence, they are being a nuisance and a thorn on the government’s side by carrying out these attacks.”
Khan said the motive behind their attacks is most likely to portray the “government as weak and also to spread a sense of insecurity throughout the country.”
He did not rule out the role of local militants in these attacks. Militant organizations like JMB and others may be claiming to be local chapters of Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, he said.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelance journalist and editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.