Hindu priest hacked to death by suspected Islamists in Bangladesh

Assailants on motor cycle attacked Shyamananda Das near Radhamadan Gopal Bigraha Math temple in Jhinaidah district.

A Hindu priest was killed at a temple in western Bangladesh on Friday, the latest incident in a series of attacks on religious minorities by suspected Islamists.

Shyamananda Das was hacked to death by three men on a motorcycle near the Radhamadan Gopal Bigraha Math in Jhinaidah district headquarter, 300km south west from the capital Dhaka. He was on his way to the temple when he was attacked.

The 45-year-old man used to help in conducting prayers at the temple.

"He was preparing morning prayers with flowers at the temple early in the morning and that time three young people came by a motor bike and killed him with machetes and fled away," Mahbubur Rahman, the chief of Jhenaidah district administration, told Reuters.

The deputy police chief of the district, Gopinath Kanjilal, said the attackers "hacked him on his neck three times and there was one stabbing mark in his head". Das died after he was taken to the hospital.

Kanjilal said that Das was a "priest" in the temple and he was also known as "Babaji". But the local police chief inspector, Hasan Hafizur Rahman, contradicted this statement and told AFP that he was only "a temple volunteer who helps conduct prayers".

"He was an itinerant temple volunteer who travels from one temple to another to serve the Hindu devotees. He came to this temple only yesterday," Rahman said.

Rahman also added that Das was attacked while he was walking outside the temple to collect flowers for the prayers.

Most of the earlier attacks on minorities, bloggers and free thinkers were claimed by the Islamist militants, but the police said there was no immediate claim of responsibility in this case. However, the pattern of this murder was very similar to the ones carried out by local Islamist militants before.

Last month, a 70-year-old Hindu priest was murdered in a rice paddy field in the same district. The police said a student activist was arrested over the attack. The student had allegedly admitted to his role in the murder.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has blamed the homegrown Islamists for the attacks, rejecting the claims of responsibility from IS and a South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda.

In the last three years, some 50 people have been killed in a wave of murders of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities.

Although Bangladesh is officially a secular country, around 90 percent of its 160 million-strong population is Muslim and about one in ten is Hindu.