By Ruma Paul
Suspected Islamist militants brutally murdered a university professor on Saturday in north-western Bangladesh, a police official said, the latest in a series of attacks on liberal activists.
Two assailants on a motorcycle attacked Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, an English professor at Rajshahi University, slitting his throat and hacking him to death, Rajshahi city police chief Mohammad Shamsudduin told reporters, quoting witnesses.
He was found lying in a pool of blood near his home, where he was apparently waiting for a bus to the university campus about 200 kilometres north-west of Dhaka when he was attacked.
Police said the murder was similar to other recent attacks on secular bloggers by Islamist militants. But fellow university teachers said Siddiquee, while active in cultural events, never spoke or wrote anything about religion or Islam.
“Professor Rezaul was killed in a similar fashion as the killings of bloggers,” Shamsudduin said, adding he was a peaceful person and had no enemies.
Five secular bloggers and a publisher have been killed in a similar fashion since February last year.
A group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killing of a liberal Bangladeshi blogger earlier this month, the SITE monitoring service has said.
Bangladesh authorities said the homegrown militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team is behind that attacks on online critics of religious extremism.
The gruesome killing triggered protest by teachers and students of the Rajshahi University, blocking a major road and demanding immediate arrest of the killers. Three teachers at the university have been killed in recent years.
The Muslim-majority nation of 160 million has seen a surge in violent attacks over the past few months in which members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have also been targeted.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killings of two foreigners, attacks on mosques and Christian priests in Bangladesh, but police said local militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen is behind the attacks.
The government has denied that the Islamic State or al Qaeda groups have a presence in Bangladesh. At least five militants have been killed in shootouts since November as security forces have stepped up a crackdown on Islamist militants looking to establish a sharia-based Muslim state.