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Killing of Bangladeshi lawmaker raises fear of extremist terror

Church official believes that police need to do more to curb radical Islamic militants

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

Published: January 05, 2017 09:33 AM GMT

Updated: January 05, 2017 11:22 AM GMT

Killing of Bangladeshi lawmaker raises fear of extremist terror

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Jan. 2 pays respects to slain parliamentarian Monjurul Islam Liton who was shot dead by unidentified attackers at his home village in Sundarganj of northern Gaibandha district of Bangladesh on Dec. 31. (Photo Courtesy: Press Information Department)

The recent murder of a parliamentarian has sparked fears of a resurgence of religious extremist violence in Bangladesh.

Monjurul Islam Liton, 48, from Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party, was shot dead by up to five unidentified assailants at his home in Sundarganj Upazila in Gainbandha on Dec 31.

"This is an extremely terrible incident, sparking fear among everyone. We don’t know who was behind it — maybe terrorists or militants — but people are panicked," Father Anthony Sen, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dinajpur Diocese that covers the area, told ucanews.com.

"If a top politician can be killed in this way, there is no guarantee of security for intellectuals, local leaders, activists or common people," Father Sen said.

The priest believes police need to do more to ensure people's safety.

"Police said they are in dark about such targeted killings. They should act more professionally, find the killers and ensure the safety of all citizens," he added.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party condemned the killing as "pre-mediated murder."

Liton became an MP during a controversial national election in Jan 2014, which was boycotted by most opposition parties. Analysts say his candidature was a reward for his strong opposition to hardliners from the Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party.

However Liton was also controversial for shooting a 10-year-old boy in 2015. He was sent to jail but later made bail.

Liton is the seventh incumbent parliamentarian from the nominally secular Awami League party to be assassinated allegedly by religious extremists since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.

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Government ministers and ruling party politicians blamed Jamaat-e-Islami for the murder.

"We have received information that Jamaat was behind the killing. In recent months, the government has successfully tackled and eliminated militant threats, but Jamaat is out there attempting to spread panic among people and weaken the government," Shafikul Islam Shimul, an Awami League lawmaker from the northern Natore district, told ucanews.com. 

"The prime minister has advised us to remain alert. It’s important for law enforcement to be extra vigilant in sensitive areas like Gainbandha where Islamic extremists have strongholds," Shimul said.

Atiar Rahman, the officer in-charge of the Sundarganj police station in Liton’s hometown, said authorities are still looking for clues.

"The day after the killing, the younger sister of the slain MP filed a case against five unnamed attackers. We have detained 27 suspects, mostly Jamaat activists. We are working with all intelligence agencies to find clues and nab the killers," Rahman told ucanews.com.

Constitutionally secular Bangladesh, with a moderate Sunni Muslim-majority population, has seen sharp rise in Islamic militancy over the past few years. Machete-wielding and gun-totting militants have killed atheist bloggers, foreigners, writers, publishers, academics, foreigners, LGBT activists and religious minorities including Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

In the worst attack so far on July 1 last year, five Islamic militants pledging allegiance to Sunni jihadist group that calls itself the Islamic State, killed 22 hostages, most of them foreigners, in a cafe in Dhaka.

Since the attack, the government has launched a massive crackdown on militants, which saw dozens killed and hundreds arrested.

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