New hit-list threatens Bangladeshi teachers and politicians

04.05.2016

Bangladesh police were investigating a new hit-list on Tuesday that includes the head of a university, journalists and ruling party officials, after a series of gruesome killings.

Police said they were taking seriously the threat to kill 10 people listed in a leaflet that was sent to a press club in the northwestern town of Natore on Monday by a hitherto unknown group. Among those named was the head of Rajshahi University, where a liberal professor was hacked to death by suspected Islamists less than two weeks ago.

"The leaflet bears the name of Islami Liberation Front. It said it has launched a mission to kill the 10 people," Natore police chief Shymal Kumar Mukherjee told journalists. "We don't know anything about this group. There are no previous information about this group. We have taken the matter seriously," he said.

The Muslim-majority nation is reeling from a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants. The Islami Liberation Front said its objective was to establish an Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh by toppling what it called the "repressive" government.

Police in the city of Rajshahi said they were guarding those named and investigating the authenticity of the threat. "We're giving special attention to these people," deputy chief of Rajshahi police Sardar Tamizuddin Ahmed told journalists.

Police said more than 1,000 students and teachers and students rallied on the Rajshahi University campus on Tuesday to protest at the murder of English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, who was a poet and leading cultural activist. Shortly after his killing, which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, two gay activists were hacked to death elsewhere. Their killings were subsequently claimed by a Bangladeshi branch of Al-Qaida.

Teachers and students have been boycotting classes at the university since Siddique's murder on 23 April, demanding justice and the arrest of the killers. "The killers must be brought to book immediately. The government must protect the teachers and liberal voices as we're all feeling insecure," the head of Rajshahi University Teachers Association, Shahid Ullah, told journalists.

Bangladesh's government has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the tide of violence. At least 30 members of religious minorities, secular bloggers and other liberal activists, foreigners and intellectuals have been murdered in the past three years. The government denies outside involvement in the killings, saying neither the IS group nor al-Qaida have a presence in the country and blaming banned local militant groups for the attacks.

National police chief A.K.M Shahidul Hoque on Tuesday denied that authorities were not doing enough to bring the perpetrators to justice. He said there had been 37 attacks related to Islamist militancy since February 2013, when an atheist blogger was hacked to death by homegrown militants.  "We were able to unearth the motives in 33 cases and have detained 144 people in connection with the cases," he told reporters.

A long-running political crisis in officially secular Bangladesh has radicalised opponents of the government and analysts say Islamist extremists pose a growing danger.    (AFP)

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