Two Islamist militants were sentenced to death and three others jailed for life by a special court today for brutally hacking to death a liberal professor near his home in northwestern Bangladesh.
Operatives of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), said to be inclined to the Islamic State, hacked professor AFM Rezaul Karim Siddiquee to death using machetes near his house in Rajshahi city on April 23, 2016.
Maskawat Hossain of Bogura and Shariful Islam, a student of Prof Siddiquee's English department of state-run Rajshahi University, were sentenced to death by the special court, a prosecutor told PTI.
He said Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Shirin Akhter simultaneously sentenced three other militants -- Rahmat Ullah of Nilphamari, Abdus Sattar of Rajshahi and Sattar's son Ripon Ali -- to life imprisonment.
The mastermind of the murder, Shariful Islam, is on the run.
Karim was known for his love for music and philanthropic activities.
According to US-based SITE Intelligence Group that monitors global terror activities, Islamic State claimed responsibility for Karim's murder for "calling to atheism", a claim rejected by Bangladesh authorities.
The verdict came as police in recent years intensified investigations into a series of clandestine attacks on secularists and liberal intellectuals, bloggers and minorities including gay activists against the backdrop of growing criticism for failure to track down the assailants.
In 2014, another Rajshahi University teacher AKM Shafiul Islam was similarly murdered.
Though his murder was initially claimed by radical group 'Ansaral Islam', police later ruled out that possibility, saying he was murdered due to personal rivalry.
But some years ago, two more professors of the Rajshahi University had been killed.
In 2015, four prominent secular bloggers were killed with machetes.
Bangladesh's secular writer and physicist professor Jafor Iqbal was the last such target in March this year when he narrowly survived an attack on the campus of the state-run Shahjajal Science University in northeastern Sylhet.
Sixty-four year Iqbal, also known for his popular science fictions, sustained critical head injuries as an outsider youth attacked him with a knife.