Hindu holy man hacked to death in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Assailants hacked a Hindu holy man to death Friday in northern Bangladesh and fled without anyone witnessing the attack, which police suspect was carried out by Islamist militants who have waged a violent campaign targeting the country's secular writers, gay rights activists and religious minorities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing of 60-year-old Nitya Ranjan Pandey while he was taking a walk at dawn near his ashram in Pabna, about 275 kilometers (170 miles) from Dhaka, local police chief Abdullah Al Hasan said. Pandey died at the spot, he said.

Pandey was the second Hindu to be killed in Bangladesh this week, after motorbike-riding assailants shot and hacked a Hindu priest to death Tuesday in southwestern Bangladesh. Two days before that, assailants killed a Christian man inside his grocery shop in the northwest, and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

Al Hasan said evidence indicated the killing mirrored other recent attacks by gangs of machete-yielding youths who targeted their victims on the street. Authorities believe the killing was carried out by more than one assailant, and that they chose dawn as the time of the attack so they could easily escape.

"No one saw the killing or the killers, but people from nearby places later found the body lying in a pool of blood," Al Hasan said.

Pabna district police chief Alamgir Kabir said radical Islamists are suspected of carrying out the attack, which occurred near the Thakur Anukul Chandra Satsanga Ashram.

Police said Thursday they were stepping up efforts to stamp out militant activity across the country, after the wife of a top police official who had led campaigns against Islamist radicals was shot and hacked to death on Sunday.

While the Islamic State group or the al-Qaida affiliate in South Asia have claimed responsibility for most of the dozens of attacks carried out in recent years, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina denies that either has a presence in the country. Instead, it says homegrown groups carried out the attacks to create chaos.