CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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Bangladesh cringes under terrorist deaths

BONPARA (UCAN): About 500 people staged a protest along a major highway to demand justice for the killing of a Catholic owner of a grocery store in northwestern Bangladesh on June 5.

Seventy-two-year-old Sunil Gomes was hacked to death in his shop near Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bonpara, Natore district, at around midday on June 5.

Gomes had worked as a gardener at the church for years and only opened his small business about three years ago.

Gomes’ family said he had no enemies that they knew of.

“He was an innocent, simple and pious man. We don’t know why he was murdered like this. We are living in fear,” his eldest daughter, 45-year-old Sopna Gomes, said.

Father Bikash Rebeiro, the local parish priest, joined the protest and called for the quick arrest and punishment of those responsible for the crime.

“This seems (to be) a premeditated murder, an exceptionally brutal one which is unprecedented in this area and people are afraid,” Father Rebeiro commented.

“We don’t know who was behind it, but we are asking the police to hunt down the attackers, arrest them and hand out an exemplary punishment,” he said.

The fear was heightened on the following day when police discovered the almost headless body of Gupal Ganguli, a Hindu priest from the Noldanga Temple in the same part of Bonpara in Natore.

His death was described by AsiaNews as the latest in a long line of blood believed to be a trail left by Islamist militants.

But while no one has claimed responsibility for the murder of Ganguli, the United States of America (US)-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activities, said that the group calling itself Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of the Catholic grocer.

However, Natore police chief, Shyamol Kumar Mukherjee, has dismissed the claim made by the US agency.

“We don’t have any leads into the killing, but we don’t see it as a sectarian attack,” the police chief said.

Earlier on June 5, three assailants murdered the wife of a prominent senior police officer widely known for his anti-militancy crackdowns in the port city of Chittagong.

Thirty-three-year-old Mahmuda Khanam, the wife of the police superintendent, Babul Akter, was shot as she was putting her six-year-old son on a school bus.

Akter has led several successful crackdowns against the banned militant outfit the Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh in recent years.

Police officials say militants may have targeted Akter’s family in a revenge attack.

“It seems like a planned killing. Akter successfully clamped down on militancy in Chittagong. So, there is a likely link to militants,” Iqbal Bahar, the Chittagong metropolitan police commissioner, said.

The two murders on June 5 and one on June 6 are the latest in a series in Bangladesh that many observers have linked to Islamist extremists in Bangladesh.

Nearly all the attacks have targeted liberal intellectuals or members of religious minorities.

Father Rebeiro said, “Police are guarding the church, but we do not want to live under guard. We want to live in a free country and we want everyone to be guaranteed security against fundamentalists.”

Bishop Gervas Rozario, from Rajshahi, complained, “We Christians are in danger. It is unacceptable to feel so insecure.”

Local media reports say that at least 29 people have been murdered in more than 40 attacks since 2013.

International terrorist organisations, such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, have claimed responsibility for several of the murders.

However, the ruling Awami League government has dismissed the possibility of Islamic State or al-Qaeda links, instead blaming the attacks on homegrown militants like Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh.

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