DHAKA: A Christian grocer was hacked to death near a church on Sunday in northwest Bangladesh, police said, amid growing deadly attacks by Islamist militants on religious minorities and secular activists.
Unidentified attackers murdered 65-year-old Sunil Gomes in the village of Bonpara, home to one of the oldest Christian communities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
"Sunil Gomes was hacked to death at his grocery store just near a church at Bonpara village," Shafiqul Islam, deputy police chief of the surrounding Natore district, told AFP.
Another police officer, Inspector Abdur Razzak, said the motive for the killing was unclear. But the attack was similar to those on Hindus and members of other religious minorities in recent months.
Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of murders of liberals, secular activists and religious minorities that have left more than 40 people dead in the last three years.
Authorities have blamed homegrown Islamists for the attacks, which have spiked in recent weeks.
International jihadists such as the Islamic State organisation and Al-Qaeda's South Asia wing have claimed responsibility for most of the murders, but authorities deny these groups are present in the country.
Sunday's murder came just hours after the wife of a top anti-terror officer was brutally killed in the southeastern city of Chittagong, by suspected members of a local banned extremist group.
Three unidentified men stabbed and then shot Mahmuda Begum in the head as she walked her son to a school bus stop near her home, said Chittagong Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Moktar Hossain.
Begum was the wife of Babul Akter, who has led several high-profile operations against the banned Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militant group in Chittagong in recent months.
"We suspect JMB or local Islamist extremists for the attack. Akter led successful anti-militant raids in Chittagong in which several JMB men were arrested," he said.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the attack was revenge for Akter's role in tracking down militants.
"Babul Akter is a skilled and honest officer who played vital roles in combating militants. That's why they killed his wife as they could not find him," Khan told AFP.
A Hindu trader was hacked to death last week, days after a homoeopathic doctor was slaughtered along with a Buddhist monk.
Last year an Italian-born Catholic priest was shot and critically injured in the north. Attackers also tried to slit the throat of a pastor in another northwestern town shortly afterwards.
Bangladesh's secular government blames political rivals for the killings. Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the largest Islamist party following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.