Elderly Buddhist monk hacked to death in Bangladesh: Police

DHAKA (AFP) - A 75-year-old Buddhist monk was found hacked to death on Saturday (May 14) in Bangladesh's remote south-eastern district of Bandarban, the police said, the latest victim in a spate of murders of religious minorities and secular activists.

"Villagers found Bhante (monk) Maung Shue U Chak's dead body in a pool of blood inside the Buddhist temple this morning. He was hacked to death," Mr Jashim Uddin, deputy police chief of Bandarban, told Agence France-Presse.

No group has yet claimed responsibility, although the killing in the remote south-eastern district of Bandarban appeared to bear a resemblance to several recent murders by suspected Islamist militants.

Mr Uddin said the monk, thought to be 75, appeared to have been attacked by at least four people at the Buddhist temple in Baishari, some 350km south-east of Dhaka early on Saturday morning.

"We saw human footprints in the temple and found that four to five people entered the compound," he added.

He said U Chak was living alone in the hillside temple after having recently left farming to become a full-time monk.

A top Bangladeshi human rights lawyer who is close to the country's Buddhist community told AFP that U Chak had received anonymous death threats.

"He became a monk just one and a half years ago. He had received death threats, but nobody took it seriously," lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said.

Bandarban is largely Buddhist, home to indigenous peoples who adopted the religion centuries ago.

Police district sub-inspector Anisur Rahman, who was at the scene, said that officers had not yet established a motive for the killing but that "it appeared the monk did not have any personal enemies".

Suspected Islamists have been blamed for or claimed responsibility in dozens of murders of Sufi, Shi'ite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners in recent years.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a Bangladeshi branch of Al-Qaeda have said they carried out several of the killings.

However, the secular government in Dhaka denies that ISIS and Al-Qaeda are behind the attacks, saying they have no known presence in Bangladesh, and blames the killings on homegrown militants.

Buddhists make up less than 1 per cent of Bangladesh's population of 160 million people.