Sufi leader shot, hacked to death in Bangladesh

NEW DELHI (AP) - Unknown assailants have shot and hacked to death a Sufi spiritual leader and his adopted daughter in northern Bangladesh, police said Tuesday.

Local police chief Hamidul Alam said the bodies of Farhad Hossain Chowdhury and his daughter, Rupali Begum, were recovered late Monday from a shrine Chowdhury ran in Dinajpur district.

Alam said police are still investigating the case and have not ruled out the involvement of militant groups. Similar killings in recent years have been blamed on suspected members of militant groups in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

The official said police are also considering other possibilities, including a personal dispute. Chowdhury had been a local leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in the past but left politics in recent years to run the shrine, where followers practiced various rituals. Many Islamic groups say such shrine-based rituals are anti-Islamic.

Bangladesh has suffered a wave of attacks in recent years by Islamist militants targeting atheist bloggers, writers, publishers and members of religious minorities, including people adhering to Sufism.

In an attack last year, a band of militants killed 20 hostages including 17 foreigners in a restaurant in Dhaka, the capital.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for some of the killings, but the government has insisted they were the acts of domestic groups and that the Islamic State has no presence in the country.

About 40 suspected militants have been killed in police raids since July last year.