Police in northwestern Bangladesh on Sunday arrested an activist belonging to the student wing of the country’s largest Islamist party in connection with the murder of an English professor.
The arrest was made in Rajshahi where Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death by unidentified attackers near his home on Saturday. The killing came after a string of similar attacks allegedly by local militant groups or by the Islamic State.
Nahidul Islam, a deputy commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police, said they arrested a student of Public Administration department who is a member of Islamic Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which has been blamed by authorities for many attacks in recent years amid its fight to stay afloat in the face of an ongoing war crimes trial.
Islam did not provide further details but said they were interrogating the 21-year-old.
The student from Rajshahi University where Siddique taught was arrested early Sunday for questioning, although the hunt was still on for other suspects, said the city’s deputy police commissioner Nahidul Islam.
He said the unidentified student of public administration is a member of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist opposition party the Jamaat-e-Islami.
“We have detained a 21-year-old Rajshahi University student who is a Shibir member as a suspect over the murder,” Islam told AFP, without detailing his alleged role in the attack.
Siddique was the fourth professor from Rajshahi University to be killed by suspected Islamists in recent years.
Five secular bloggers and a publisher have also been murdered, as well as members of minority groups and foreigners, as Bangladesh reels from rising Islamist violence.
The Islamic Chhatra Shibir is usually criticised by pro-government Bangladeshi media as a notorious force that has a record of follwing violent tactics to keep its presence on campuses in many colleges and universities in Bangladesh. Rajshahi University is the organization’s stronghold.
Shibir activists have been facing a major crackdown for the past few years as the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been trying war criminals for their role in the 1971 Bangladesh independence war. Its activists led several violent attacks during anti-government movement in recent years as its senior leadership has been tried for war crimes. Jamaat-e-Islami openly opposed Bangladesh’s breakaway from Pakistan and aided Pakistani soldiers to commit crimes against people who supported or fought for Bangladesh’s independence.
Sunday’s arrest is not being considered as a significant development as authorities are struggling for any clues that could immediately lead them to a major breakthrough.
Meanwhile, a senior police official in Dhaka, the capital, rejected the claim that the Islamic State group was responsible for the killing of Siddique, the fourth from Rajshahi University slain in recent years. Islamist groups have been blamed by police for all the previous murders but little progress has been made to bring the responsible to justice.
At least six atheist bloggers and a publisher have been killed in recent months. Two foreigners, an Italian and a Japanese, have also been killed in drive-by attacks while attacks were also made against minorities like Shias, Ahmadiyas and Hindus.
While Islamic State or al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent claimed responsibility for some of the killings, authorities sharply rejected the claims and said local extremist groups were behind the attacks.
A counter-terrorism official said the Islamic State’s claim for the killing of Siddique was baseless. “The IS does not exist here,” he told reporters in Dhaka.
On Sunday, teachers boycotted classes at Rajshahi University to demand justice for the latest killing.
Meanwhile, international condemnation continued for Saturday’s killing.
European Union’s Ambassador to Bangladesh, Pierre Mayaudon, on Sunday expressed his firm condemnation of the brutal murder.
“The initial findings indicate that the crime was conducted by fanatics. Should it be confirmed, this would be yet another terror attack in Bangladesh in a short period of time. Killings of academicians and intellectuals are irreparable losses for any society as a whole,” Mayaudon said in a statement.
He expected that “the investigation will bring the instigators and perpetrators of this crime to justice.”