A doctor in western Bangladesh was hacked to death as he drove to his clinic Friday morning, and the Islamic State group later claimed credit for the attack in a message published online.
Police said Sanaur Rahman, a homeopathic doctor, was riding on the back of a motorcycle when he was struck in the head with a machete. The assailants escaped. News reports said Rahman might have been targeted because he hosted concerts for Baul singers — mystic musicians whose syncretic religious beliefs are opposed by Islamist militants.
His killing followed a series of similar attacks over the past two years, which have targeted secular and progressive bloggers, writers, activists and intellectuals.
The Islamic State group and an al-Qaida faction have claimed credit for some of the attacks, but Bangladesh authorities continue to insist that there are no foreign terror groups operating in the country. Instead, officials have blamed local militants or the political opposition.
This week, police published names and photos of six Islamist militants who they say were directly involved in most of those killings. Police said the men were members of Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) a banned local hard-line Islamist group. They also announced rewards of nearly $23,000 (1.8 million takas) for information about the suspects.
A police notice published Thursday identified two men, Selim and Shoriful, as ABT militants who had played a direct role in several killings. Police said Shoriful had been seen in security camera footage around the spot where one of the victims was killed.
Bangladesh’s home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said Friday that the airports and the border points of Bangladesh had been alerted so that the six ABT militants could not escape the country.
But that did little to assuage government critics who said police did not seem to be seriously investigating the killings, which in turn had led to a culture of impunity — and more attacks.
Former university professor Ajoy Roy, father of killed blogger Avijit Roy, told VOA that the government appeared not keen to seriously investigate the cases of his son and other victims.
“Sometimes they said to me that the killers [of Avijit] were under watch," Roy said. "If they are under your watch, it means you know of their whereabouts. I asked them, 'Why are you not arresting them if you know of their whereabouts?' " He said the police told him, "We have not been able to spot them exactly, but we know that they are around."
“Some days ago, the chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that the three men who took part in the actual killing of Avijit had fled the country," Roy said. "They are issuing different statements in different times. Each of their statements contradicts another.”
However, the government of Bangladesh insisted that the investigations in almost all of the killings were moving on well.
“In the cases of killings of the bloggers, priests, publishers since 2013, we have arrested over 50 men. Most of them have confessed to their connections to the killings. Only in one or two cases our investigations have not made any progress,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told VOA.
“Our government maintains a policy of zero tolerance against militancy," Haq said. "The accusation that the government is not sincerely conducting the investigations is not true.”
Rights groups are also critical of the pace of investigations. Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said that so far, the government had not appeared sincere about tracking down the killers.
“The Bangladesh authorities' investigations into the murder of the bloggers and other activists have been woefully halfhearted and dawdling, and in a few instances even shockingly implied that the victims were responsible for what happened to them because of what they said and wrote,” Robertson told VOA.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina needs to demonstrate her commitment to justice by ordering the police do an impartial, thorough and professional job in getting to the bottom of the brutal murders, but so far, she's been missing in action.”
Last month, Hasina appeared at a political rally for her Awami League party and again accused the political opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance, for the series of attacks, arguing they were being carried out to destabilize the country. Members of the opposition denied the charge.