Unidentified men shot and hacked a Hindu priest to death in southwestern Bangladesh on Tuesday, the latest in a series of attacks on minorities in recent months.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killing in Jhenaidah district through its Amaq News Agency.
In a separate development, three suspected Islamists were killed in gunbattles with Bangladesh police following the launch of a massive crackdown on extremists.
Hasan Hafizur Rahman, officer-in-charge of the area where the attack occurred, said the attackers riding a motorcycle stopped Anando Gopal Ganguly while he was going to a temple on a bicycle to perform prayers in the morning.
Local residents told police that the three assailants first shot Ganguly and then hacked him with a sharp weapon, probably to make sure he was dead, before they fled.
“We do not have any clues about who did this,” Rahman said.
Police did not rule out the possible involvement of Islamist militants as the incident was similar to many other brutal attacks in the Muslim-majority country.
The killing came two days after suspected Islamist militants killed the wife of a police superintendent who led drives against militant groups, successfully leading to the arrest of suspected militants and seizure of arms and ammunition from their hideouts in recent years.
Hours after the murder of the police officer’s wife, unidentified assailants killed a Christian man inside his grocery shop, also on Sunday, in Natore district.
The series of killings, allegedly by Islamist groups, has thrown a major challenge to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as many are worried about the security situation.
Authorities have downplayed the incidents and said international groups like the IS and Al Qaeda have no presence in Bangladesh. They have also said local groups are behind such attacks to create anarchy.
Since last year, suspected Islamist militants have attacked and killed a number of people, including atheist and secular bloggers, publishers, teachers and online activists. Two foreigners were also killed.
In the past two months, at least 10 people were killed allegedly by members of suspected militant groups, according to Amnesty International.
The IS claimed responsibility for several attacks, according to SITE Intelligence Group. Those claims could not be independently verified by Hindustan Times.
A crackdown on extremists resulted in the death of three operatives of the outlawed Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in separate gun battles with police. Two policemen were also injured in the operations.
The JMB was targeted by superintendent of police Babul Aktar, whose wife was killed by militants on Sunday.
Two JMB operatives were killed in a shootout with detectives in Dhaka while another member of the group was killed in a gunfight with police in northwestern Rajshahi city. The two men killed in Dhaka were said to be involved in several recent attacks, including the bombing of a Shia mosque and the murder of a liberal professor, police said.
(With inputs from agencies)