Thursday’s suspected militant attack on Bangladesh’s biggest congregation to celebrate Eid was possibly aimed at a liberal cleric who has led a public campaign against Islamist radicals in the country, police said.
Maulana Farid-uddin Masud, the chief cleric of the main mosque in Kishoregunj town that was attacked, collected more than 100,000 signatures, including from leading Islamic scholars and intellectuals, against a recent wave of extremist attacks in the country targeting atheists, religious minorities.
Masud had described radical Islamists as pursuing “empty Islam” and said those perpetrating violence in the name of the faith would “go to hell”.
“We believe he was the target,” Tofazzal Hossain, assistant superintendent of police in Kishoregunj, told Hindustan Times.
Masud has state security and he arrived at the Sholakia Eidgah grounds in Kishoregunj on Thursday on a helicopter. It wasn’t clear if he was at the mosque when the attack took place.
At least two people, including a policeman, were killed when a group of suspected radical Islamists hurled homemade bombs at security men guarding the Eid prayers in Kishoregunj, about 90 km north of the capital of Dhaka, officials said.
The attack occurred when about 200,000 people gathered to offer prayers on Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramzan.
The violence comes just days after the country suffered a deadly hostage crisis in which 22 were killed, including 20 captives. It was the worst in a recent wave of extremist attacks in Bangladesh targeting atheists, religious minorities and other so-called enemies of Islam.
Although the Islamic State claimed credit for the attack, the government has blamed home-grown militant groups of waging the violence in order to create political chaos in the country and undermine the secular government.