DHAKA, Bangladesh (Christian Examiner) – A Muslim convert to Christianity in Bangladesh has been hacked to death by Islamic militants, the country's English-language newspaper, The Independent, has reported.
According to the paper, Hossain Ali, 68, was on a morning walk when he was attacked by several men around 7 a.m. The men reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great" as they killed the man.
Ali was a former "freedom fighter," the news source claimed, but had converted to Christianity 15 years ago. Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won an eight-month long war with its parent country in 1971. Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of the country, while Hindus account for another 9 percent. Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population.
Witnesses to the crime said the attackers fell on Ali and slashed his throat. He died at the scene.
The attackers then threw a bomb to frighten local passersby. Two more unexploded bombs were also found at the scene.
The victim may have, in fact, known at least one of the attackers. According to the paper, Ruhul Amin Azad – the victim's son – said a room in their house had been rented by a young man identifying himself as Abul Bashir from Rangpur. Police later said his national ID card and mobile phone number were both fakes.
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Police also said they had arrested several men suspected of involvement in the attack and are investigating their ties to militant groups.
The district's police chief, Tobarak Ullah, told the UK Daily Mail that Ali "was not a pastor or reputed Christian." He also suggested that a dispute over family property could have been a motive in the killing.
That theory, however, doesn't gel with eyewitness accounts of the attackers shouting "God is great," the rally cry of Islamic jihadists the world over. In recent months, militants aligned with the Islamic State (ISIS) have targeted converts to Christianity, Shia Islam and Hindus also. In the week prior to the attack on Ali, ISIS militants killed a Shiite convert in the southwestern portion of the country.
Also, on March 23, ISIS militants released a statement directly claiming responsibility for the attack. That statement was nearly identical to the statement released by ISIS after the attacks in Brussels yesterday. It also claimed Ali was, in fact, a well-known Christian.
"A security detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate was able, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, to kill the apostate (Ali), who changed his religion and became a preacher for the polytheist Christianity," the statement said.
In the past two years, five Bangladeshi bloggers who criticized Islam and the Islamic State have also been killed by militants with ties to al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.