Although the police arrested three suspects in connection with the killing of a priest at a temple in Debiganj of Panchagarh, they were still clueless about the motive behind the gruesome murder.
Law enforcers picked up one of them on Sunday evening while the other two were held from different places in the upazila during a drive that night.
Panchagarh Superintendent of Police Giasuddin Ahmed said they picked up two
suspected members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) -- Khalilur Rahman, 45, and Jahangir Hossain, 30, -- and Jamaat activist Babul Hossain, 31, in connection with the killing.
Asked if the arrestees confessed to their involvement, the SP refused to disclose anything, saying the investigation was underway.
Local police sources, however, said the arrestees were accused in criminal cases in the past.
Meanwhile, several hundred people yesterday formed a human chain at Bijoy Chattar in Debiganj Sadar, demanding exemplary punishment of the real culprits. Members of different socio-political organisations and religious groups joined in.
Unidentified assailants attacked priest Jogeswar Dasadhikari, 50, of Sri Sri Sonto Gaurio temple Sunday morning when he was preparing his offerings for the morning puja at the temple, about half a kilometre from the upazila headquarters.
They first hacked him indiscriminately in front of the temple and chased him to a house in the backyard where they slit his throat, leaving him dead on the spot, said police.
The attackers shot devotee Gopal Chandra Das, who tried to save the priest, and also hurt another devotee Nitai Das by hurling a homemade bomb while escaping.
Locals said they saw three people fleeing the scene on a motorbike.
Jogeswar's brother Rabindranath Roy filed a murder case with Debiganj Police Station, accusing three unknown people, Sunday evening. Police also filed an illegal arms and explosive case.
SP Giasuddin said an eight-member team led by Additional SP Nur Muhammad was helping investigating officer of the case Aiyub Ali, an inspector of the police station.
SITE, an intelligence group, on its website news.siteintelgroup.com said Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for killing Jogeswar but this paper could not independently verify the claim.
A top official of Panchagarh police denied that there was any presence of the terror outfit in the district. “Yet, we will verify the claim.”
The Hindu priest became the latest victim of a string of attacks on leaders and establishments of religious minorities in the country in recent times.
Pastor Luke Sarker of Pabna and Italian pastor Piero Parolari, who lives in Dinajpur, were attacked in their homes on October 5 and November 18. Law enforcers claimed that JMB men had carried out the attacks.
Meanwhile, arrestee Khalilur's wife Shilpi Akhter told this correspondent that police picked up her husband at Bhaulaganj Bazar area in Debiganj while he was going to his in-law's house.
Amena Khatun, 50, mother of another arrestee Jahangir, claimed that her son was at home when the killing took place.
Under the banner of “Debiganj Upazilabashi”, leaders and activists of Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, Bangladesh Khoitrio Samity and Jago Hindu Parishad, among others, formed the human chain yesterday morning.
They demanded arrest of the killers within 24 hours and ensure their punishment.
They also demanded that a special tribunal be formed for trying the killers.
EU CONDEMNS PRIEST KILLING
The European Union strongly condemned the murder of Jogeswar and attack on Gopal Chandra Das in Panchagarh and urged all relevant authorities to ensure thorough investigation into the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
”An attack on any religion is an attack against all religions,” said EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon in a statement yesterday.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Alison Blake in a twitter message said, “I am horrified at the savage attack on J Roy & G C Roy. Nothing can justify attacks on people because of their faith or beliefs.”
“Freedom of religion is a universal right. The UK stands alongside the people of Bangladesh and against all forms of extremism.”
'NO TRUE GROUND'
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday told the BBC Bangla Service that the IS claim for killing the priest has “no true ground” and that the killing was part of a “conspiracy” to create an unstable situation in the country.
“One or two incidents happened in the past. Whatever happened, announcement was made from an anonymous place that IS committed it. We have told earlier that such announcement has no true ground. A conspiracy is going on,” he said.
Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam of Dhaka Metropolitan Police told the BBC Bangla Service that law enforcers arrested suspects in connection with almost each incidents that happened since October last year.
“At least 30 people were arrested from across the country. During interrogation, they admitted their involvement. We could learn that they were members of home-grown terror outfits like JMB. None of them admitted that they were members of IS,” he said.