Islamist student arrested over machete murder of Bangladeshi university professor
Rezaul Karim Siddique was the fourth professor from Rajshahi University to be killed by Islamists.
South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2016, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2016, 5:39pm
Bangladesh police arrested an Islamist student on Sunday over the gruesome murder of a professor one day earlier, the latest such killing claimed by Islamic State.
Attackers wielding machetes almost beheaded English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique on Saturday in the northwestern city of Rajshahi, following a string of similar killings of secular activists by Islamist militants.
The student from Rajshahi University where Siddique taught was arrested early on Sunday for questioning, although the hunt was still on for other suspects, said Rajshahi deputy police commissioner Nahidul Islam.
He said the unidentified student, who is studying public administration, is a member of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist opposition party the Jamaat-e-Islami.
“We have detained a 21-year-old Rajshahi University student who is a Shibir member as a suspect over the murder,” Islam said, without detailing his alleged role in the attack.
The assailants almost beheaded Siddique, 58, when they attacked him from behind as he walked to the bus station from his home in the city of Rajshahi, police said.
Siddique was the fourth professor from Rajshahi University to be killed by Islamists.
Militants have also targeted secular bloggers and students in a string of murders that has sparked outrage and raised fears freedom of speech is under threat in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
People close to Siddique said he had never spoken out against religion, but he may have been targeted for his role in leading music and literature groups.
“As far as I know, my husband didn’t have any personal enmity with anyone,” his wife, Hosne Ara, told the BBC.
The authorities must do more to put an end to these killings. Not a single person has been brought to justice
Champa Patel, Amnesty International South Asia
Hundreds of university students held protests after news of the murder, marching on the campus and shouting slogans demanding the arrest of the attackers, said local police chief Humayun Kabir.
“The students were shocked at the latest brutal killing of their teachers,” Mostafiz Mishu, a student who witnessed the protests, said. “Some 500 of them shouted slogans and joined the marches calling for protection of all teachers and exemplary punishment for the killers.”
Home-grown Islamist militants have been blamed for killing several secular bloggers and online activists since 2013, most recently in the capital Dhaka early this month.
Eight members of banned Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team, including a top cleric said to be its founder, were convicted late last year for the murder of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.
Sakhawat Hossain, a friend and colleague of Siddique at the university, said he used to play the tanpura, a musical instrument popular in South Asia, and wrote poems and short stories.
“He used to lead a cultural group called Komol Gandhar and edit a biannual literary magazine with the same name. But he never wrote or spoke against religion in public,” Hossain said.
Nahidul Islam, a deputy commissioner of police, said Siddique was involved in several cultural programmes and had set up a music school at Bagmara, a former bastion of an outlawed Islamist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
“The attack is similar to the ones carried out on [atheist] bloggers in the recent past,” Islam said, adding nobody had been arrested yet.
Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia director, condemned the latest killing as “inexcusable”, saying it was part of a “gruesome pattern”.
“The authorities must do more to put an end to these killings. Not a single person has been brought to justice for the attacks over the past year,” Patel said.
A long-running political crisis in Bangladesh, which is majority Sunni Muslim but officially secular, has radicalised opponents of the government and analysts say Islamist extremists pose a growing danger.
Bangladesh authorities have consistently denied that international Islamist networks such as al-Qaeda or IS, which has claimed responsibility for the murders of minorities and foreigners, are active in the country.