Bangladeshi police stand guard during a strike called by hard-line Islamists in Dhaka on Nov. 23. Some Christians believe a recent attack on a prominent member of an interfaith group could be linked to the execution of an Islamist leader. (Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)
A leading figure in of one of Bangladesh's major interreligious forums has been critically wounded in a knife attack, police say.
Religious minority groups believe the attack could be in retaliation to the execution of an Islamist leader earlier this week.
Two masked knife-wielding assailants attacked Alok Sen, 58, a Hindu and secretary of the local unit of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, outside his house in Faridpur district, outside the capital, Dhaka, on Nov. 24.
"Two people knocked on his door at about 3:30 pm and started stabbing him when he came outside," said Nazimuddin Ahmed, officer in-charge at Kotwali police station in Faridpur.
"The attackers fled when neighbors came to rescue [Sen] after hearing his screams," he said.
Police have yet to determine a motive for the attack.
Sen's injuries are serious, said Dr. Asit Ranjan Das, chief government medical officer in Faridpur. He has been transferred to a hospital in Dhaka, the doctor added.
The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council later condemned the attack and called for the quick arrest of the assailants.
"We don't want to speculate about who carried out the attack. But we want to the government to conduct a proper investigation and find the culprits and punish them," said Rana Dasgupta, the council's secretary-general.
The forum is considered a backer of the ruling Awami League party.
Rumors are circulating among religious minority groups that the attack could be linked to the recent execution of Islamist leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, who was hanged on Nov. 22 for war crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence from Pakistan.
Mujaheed was former secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami, a hard-line Islamist party, who hailed from Faridpur. He was buried in his home village soon after his execution.
"Those opposed to the war crime trials carried out the attack. It is because minorities were victims of abuse during the war, and have testified in cases resulting in the death penalty for war criminals," said Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic and secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association.
Considered a moderate Muslim-majority nation, Bangladesh has seen a recent spike in violence linked to religion.
Four secular bloggers and a publishers were murdered and three injured in machete attacks by alleged Islamic extremists this year.