DHAKA, Bangladesh (Christian Examiner) – A Christian grocer in Bangladesh is the latest victim of a growing number of deadly attacks on Christians, atheists, and other religious minorities in the predominately Muslim nation.
The man, Sunil Gomes, 65, "was hacked to death at his grocery store just near a church in Bonpara village," Deputy Police Chief of the Natore District, Shafiqul Islam, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) after the attack.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, militants with either al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS), which has gained a larger foothold in recent days in the South Asian country, are suspected as having carried it out.
Bangladesh has seen a spike in violent attacks in recent years, and many times the violence is directed toward Christians or cultural liberals who advocate for free speech, gay rights or secular government. Police acknowledge that more than 40 people have been killed by militants in the past three years.
Last year, three bloggers who advocated secularism and challenged Islamic extremism in the country were killed. The attacks on the men match the pattern of the recent killing of the Christian grocer. Another attack does, as well.
In March, a Muslim convert to Christianity was also hacked to death by Islamic militants. The man, Hossain Ali, 68, was on a morning walk when he was attacked by several men around 7 a.m. The men were reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great" as they killed the man.
The most recent murder – that of the grocer – took place just hours after the wife of the chief of the anti-terror squad in the town of Chittagong was stabbed to death.
That attack marked the first time an attack was carried out on a target other than a religious minority or an activist carrying out work considered antithetical to extremist Islam. Mahmuda Khanam Mitu, 30 and a Muslim, was stabbed nine times and shot in the head while walking her son to the bus stop in the southeastern Bangladeshi city.
In spite of claims of responsibilities for past attacks by both al-Qaeda and ISIS, the Bangladeshi government claims there is no problem with radical Islamic extremists in the country. It instead blames the strife on political rivalries. It even denies the two militant groups are operating in the country.
There are, however, at work. Last week, a Hindu trader was hacked to death, days after a homoeopathic doctor was also slaughtered along with a Buddhist monk. ISIS has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.