Faculty at a university in northwestern Bangladesh said they were planning to boycott classes scheduled for Sunday and Monday in anger over a colleague’s grisly murder by suspected militants.
Rajshahi University English professor A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death while heading to campus Saturday morning, in a murder whose motive remained unclear but that bore the hallmarks of machete-killings of secular writers, bloggers and intellectuals, police said.
Seven such killings at the hands of suspected Muslim radicals took place between February 2013 and April 7, 2016, with six occurring within the past 14 months. The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the professor’s murder, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group tweeted on Saturday, although Bangladeshi officials have vehemently denied that IS has a presence in their country.
“We will bring out a protest rally tomorrow, and the teachers will boycott all classes on Sunday and Monday in protest of the killing,” Shateel Siraj, former joint secretary of the Rajshahi University Teachers’ Association, told BenarNews on Saturday after faculty members held an emergency meeting.
Rajshahi University students who were incensed at news of the killing of Siddique – known as a lover of poetry who was trying to start a music school in his village – staged a protest rally on campus earlier in the day demanding that his killers be arrested and prosecuted.
Saturday’s killing in Rajshahi, a riverfront city located some 200 km (124.2 miles) from Dhaka, was in fact the second hacking to death of a professor from the campus in less than 18 months. But the murder of sociology professor A.K.M. Shafiul Islam in November 2014 stemmed from a personal conflict with a student and was not religiously motivated, police told BenarNews.
At least two suspects who were arrested in the Islam homicide case and are now standing trial on murder charges tried to throw police off their trail, by creating a Facebook page where they posted messages that made it look like militants were behind the sociology professor’s killing, police said.
‘Militants may be killers’
Siddique, 61, was attacked by machete-wielding suspects around 7:40 a.m. as he was walking from his home to catch a bus to the university, Golam Saqlain, an assistant police commissioner at the Bolia police station in Rajshahi district, told BenarNews.
“The killers hacked him on the neck from behind. They hit at least three times. [A] two-third portion of his neck was severed from the body,” Saqlain said.
His attackers may have fled the scene on a motorbike, police said.
“The way the bloggers in the past were hacked to death, Professor Rezaul was killed in the similar fashion. So, we suspect that some militant groups could have been involved in the murder,” Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) Commissioner Md. Shamsuddin told reporters.
Police were still trying to pinpoint a motive, according to Saqlain who is part of a six-member team investigating Siddique’s murder.
“We have yet to ascertain what group could have killed him. Besides, we are also investigating whether any other causes led to the murder,” he said.
‘Very simple and soft-spoken’
Hasan Imam, a sociology professor at Rajshahi, described Siddique as a quiet man who had no enemies and was not a political activist.
“He was a very simple and soft-spoken person; so personal enmity is unlikely to be the cause. Rajshahi University is making news headlines at the cost of our colleagues. We do not know who is going to be the next [target],” Imam told BenarNews.
According to Siddique’s brother, Sirajul Karim Siddique, the professor had never received any death threats.
“He had been involved in writing and trying to set a music school in his village Dargamaria,” he told reporters.
Dargamaria lies in Bagmara, a sub-district of Rajshahi where the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) emerged in 2002-2003, and is now among militant groups being targeted by Bangladeshi authorities in an ongoing anti-terror crackdown.
Bagmara is also where a suicide bomber attacked a mosque frequented by minority Ahmadiyya Muslims on Dec. 25, killing himself and injuring three worshipers.