DHAKA • Unidentified attackers hacked to death a university professor in Bangladesh yesterday, in an incident police said bore the hallmarks of previous killings by Islamist militants of secular and atheist activists.
Police said English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, was hacked from behind with machetes as he walked to a bus station from his home in the country's north-western city of Rajshahi, where he taught at the public university.
Rajshahi police commissioner Mohammad Shamsuddin said: "His neck was hacked at least three times and was 70 to 80 per cent slit."
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the killing, saying its fighters assassinated the professor for "being in favour of atheism".
Deputy Commissioner of Police Nahidul Islam said the professor was involved in cultural programmes, including music, and set up a music school at Bagmara, a former bastion of an outlawed Islamist group, Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
"The attack is similar to the ones carried out on (atheist) bloggers in the recent past," he added.
But fellow university teachers said Prof Rezaul, while active in cultural events, never spoke or wrote anything about religion or Islam. Home-grown Islamist militants have been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013, the most recent being in the capital Dhaka early this month.
In every attack, unidentified assailants hacked the victim to death with machetes or cleavers.
Police said the latest victim was the fourth professor from Rajshahi University to have been murdered.
The string of killings have sparked outrage at home and abroad, with rights groups demanding that the secular government protect freedom of speech in the Muslim-majority country.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS