The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has claimed responsibility for the killing of a Hindu monastery worker in northeastern Bangladesh, according to a US-based monitoring service.
Friday’s attack on Nitya Ranjan Pandey, 60, in Pabna district is the third murder of a member of Bangladesh’s religious minorities for which ISIL has taken responsibility in the past week.
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SITE Intelligence Group, the monitoring service, reported on Saturday that ISIL claimed responsibility online.
The killing comes as the police carry out a security crackdown in response to the ongoing wave of murders targeting secular Muslims and minorities across the South Asian nation.
A total of 1,800 people, including activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist political party, have been arrested so far, media reports say.
Several local drug dealers, drug users and other petty criminals were also arrested alongside “militants” during Friday’s police raids, Bangladeshi media reported, citing police sources.
‘Pool of blood’
Pandey, a volunteer at the Shri Shri Thakur Anukulchandra Ashram in Pabna, was attacked while taking a walk early on Friday morning.
“He was found lying in a pool of blood,” Alamgir Kabir, Pabna’s police chief, said, adding that no one saw the attackers.
Abdullah al-Hasan, the local police station chief, said: “As a diabetic, every day [Pandey] walked early in the morning. Today as he was walking, several attackers hacked him in the neck … He died on the spot.
“He had been working at the monastery for around 40 years. In recent years he was the head of its office staff.”
Since February last year, shadowy groups have killed more than 30 people in Bangladesh, including members of religious minorities, liberal bloggers and academics.
Hindus and Christians make up about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s mainly Muslim 160 million population.
ISIL has claimed responsibility for 21 of the attacks since its first claim in September last year, and al-Qaeda has claimed most of the rest, according to SITE.
The secular government of Sheikh Hasina denies that either group has a presence in Bangladesh and says domestic groups are responsible.
Two groups in particular have been been identified by the authorities as leading the fight against secularism: Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team.
While both are considered possible suspects in the recent killings, neither has been alleged to have direct links to al-Qaeda and ISIL.
Last month, police announced 1.8 million taka ($23,000) in rewards for information leading to the arrest of six members of Ansarullah Bangla Team.
Five suspected members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh have been killed in shootouts in recent days.
The group had laid low since six of its leaders were hanged in 2007 for attacks that included 500 bomb explosions on a single day in 2005.
Subsequent suicide attacks on courts killed 25 people and wounded hundreds.
In the course of the past 10 days, besides Pandey, an elderly Hindu priest, a Christian shopkeeper and the Muslim wife of a counterterrorism police officer have been killed.
Mahmuda Khanom was stabbed and shot in the head by three unidentified men as she walked her son to a school bus stop near her home in the coastal city of Chittagong on Sunday.
She was the wife of Babul Akter, who has led several prominent operations against outlawed groups.
On Thursday, A K M Shahidul Hoque, inspector-general of Bangladesh Police, pledged in an address to a meeting of senior police officers in the capital, Dhaka, that those involved in Khanom’s killing would be “brought to justice very soon”.