(DIYA TV) — Attackers decapitated a top Hindu priest in northern Bangladesh Sunday in the latest assault targeting minorities in the Muslim-majority nation. Additionally, two worshipers were also wounded.
The attackers, reportedly armed with pistols and cleavers, attacked Joggeshwar Das, 50, the head priest of Sri Sri Sant Gourio Math, at his home in the temple on Sunday morning around 7 a.m. while he was praying, Gias Uddin, the superintendent of police in the district said. Uddin said two men hurled a bomb and fired two rounds as they fled Das’s home after the attack. There was a third man waiting close-by on a motorcycle to help them escape, police said.
Shafiqul Islam, a government administrator in the sub-district Debiganj where the temple is located, described the grisly scene of the attack.
“The priest was preparing for morning prayers when they pounced on him and slit his head from the body at the verandah of his home inside the temple,” Islam said. “We recovered a blood-stained cleaver from the spot,” he added.
As mentioned previous, two worshipers were also wounded in the attack. One was shot while attempting to save the life of the priest, officials said. The motive for the murder remains unclear, but police said Islamist militants were among the prime suspects behind the attack. The three men suspected of the crime are now in custody, Uddin said the manhunt for the attackers was launched immediately. Security checkpoints were set up across the region in an effort to find the assailants.
“The Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is also in our list of suspects,” Ahmed said before the three men were captured.
The same group is believed to have been behind an attack on an Italian Catholic priest in the neighboring district of Dinajpur late last year. Bangladesh has recently experienced a spike in attacks against minorities including Shiites, Sufis, Christians and Ahmadis by Islamist militant groups. The government has rejected the Islamic State’s claims it was responsible for several recent attacks, including one of which two foreigners were shot.
Sunday morning, ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of the priest via Twitter. As of Monday, it remains unclear whether or not the arrested have any association with ISIS. Mohammad Babul Aker, an officer in charge of the Debiganj police station in the Panchagarh District, said two of the three men are known members of the banned JMB. The third man arrested is suspected to be a part of the student-wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamic political party.
All three have been charged with murder and weapons counts.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has instead accused the JMB, a group which has been banned in the country, other local militant groups and the Islamist-allied political opposition of leading efforts in trying to destabilize the country. Hindu’s, the country’s largest minority body, represent almost 10 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people.