A Hindu priest was slain and a devotee wounded in Bangladesh last month in the latest attack on religious minorities in the largely Muslim nation. Police believe that the banned Islamist group Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) planned the attack.
According to Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of police, a 50-year-old Hindu priest was killed by two people at a temple in the northern district of Panchagarh on February 21. Giasuddin Ahmed, district police chief of Panchagarh, said that the attackers arrived on a motorcycle, firing bullets and hurling grenades towards the temple before slashing the priest’s throat and fleeing the scene. A devotee at the temple was also injured in the process.
Three people were arrested within two days in connection with the religiously motivated attack. Two of those arrested were JMB activists while the third is a supporter of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Muslim political party of Bangladesh. Muhammed Babul Akhter, police inspector, said that the three had been charged with possession of weapons and murder.
Despite initial media reports claiming that the attack had been orchestrated by Islamic State militants, Akhter said police found no evidence to establish a connection between the two.
In November last year, an Italian Catholic priest was attacked in the same region while a Shiite mosque was vandalized in Bogra. Even though the priest managed to survive, the mosque witnessed the death of at least one person and the injuries of three others. A month earlier, another Christian pastor had been attacked in northwest Bangladesh. Since 2013, as many as six secular writers and publishers have been killed.
Islam blamed JMB members for all of the previous attacks on religious minorities except the mosque attack, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.
“This group is responsible for most of the attacks on Shiite mosques, Hindu temples, churches and religious leaders across Bangladesh since October,” Islam said.
Approximately 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 169 million population practices Islam with only 10 percent following Hinduism and as little as one percent following other religions, including Christianity and Buddhism.
Ahmed said that security at Hindu temples across the country had been beefed up only recently after police received anonymous threats.
Photo Credits: The Muslim Debate Initiative