ISIS claims responsibility for killing of Hindu tailor in Bangladesh: Monitoring group

Protestors hold placards during a demonstration against the killing of a university professor in Dhaka, on April 29, 2016. There has been a spate of attacks against minorities, liberals and westerners in Bangladesh.
Protestors hold placards during a demonstration against the killing of a university professor in Dhaka, on April 29, 2016. There has been a spate of attacks against minorities, liberals and westerners in Bangladesh. PHOTO: AFP

TANGAIL, Bangladesh (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the murder of a Hindu tailor in central Bangladesh on Saturday (April 30), a United States-based monitoring group said.

Mr Nikhil Chandra Joarder, who was hacked to death by at least two attackers outside his shop, may have been killed for making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad several years ago, the police said.

"Elements from the Islamic State assassinated a Hindu in the city of Tangail in Bangladesh by stabbing him to death," the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said, citing a source, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

"He was known for blaspheming Prophet Muhammad," Amaq added in the Arabic-language message.

Police officials told AFP they were investigating whether the killing was linked to Islamist militants or tied to a family dispute.

"They came on a motorcycle and attacked him as he sat on a roadside," deputy chief of Tangail district police Aslam Khan said. "They hacked him on his head, neck and hand."

Muslim-majority Bangladesh is reeling from a series of brutal attacks on members of minority faiths, secularists, foreigners and intellectuals in recent months, including two gay activists and a liberal professor in the past eight days alone.

Many of the killings have been blamed on or claimed by Islamist groups - and in several cases, attackers riding motorbikes hacked the victims to death with machetes or cleavers.

In 2012, local Muslims had filed a complaint with the police against Mr Joarder, who owned a tailoring shop, for making derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad.

Charged with hurting religious sentiments, he spent three weeks in jail.

The trial did not proceed "after the complainants withdrew the charges", Mr Abdul Jalil, police chief of Gopalpur sub-district, told AFP.

The dispute appeared to have ended peacefully, another official said, adding that the victim's family said he was also being threatened by a relative.

ISIS has in recent months claimed responsibility for the killing of Christians, Hindu priests and members of the minority Sufi, Ahmadi and Shiite faiths in Bangladesh.

However, the government denies that international Islamists such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda have a presence in the country, blaming homegrown militants for the killings instead.

"There is no presence of Islamic State in this country. The claim has no base," Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told The Daily Star newspaper of the ISIS claim on Saturday.

"In the name of ISIS, a vested quarter is trying to destabilise the country."

Separately, the police said on Saturday they had arrested two members of a banned Islamist militant outfit, Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), in the case of a Christian convert brutally hacked to death in March.

"The JMB men are suspects in the murder of Hossain Ali Sarker," Kurigram district police chief Tobarak Ullah told AFP, adding that the arrests took place two days ago.

In February, suspected Islamists decapitated a top Hindu priest inside a temple complex in one of the country's northern districts, in an attack claimed by ISIS.

The murders come amid a long-running political crisis some suggest has radicalised government opponents. Analysts say Islamists now pose a growing danger in the South Asian country.

At least 30 members of religious minorities, secular activists, foreigners and intellectuals have been murdered in Bangladesh in the past three years.

Hindus, the country's largest religious minority, make up nearly 10 per cent of Bangladesh's 160 million people.