Report: Bibles for Mideast
Unidentified attackers murdered 65-year-old Sunil Gomes in the village of Bonpara, home to one of the oldest Christian communities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. He had just returned from a Sunday worship service.
"Sunil Gomes was hacked to death at his grocery store just near a church at Bonpara village," said the deputy police chief of the surrounding Natore district, Shafiqul Islam.
He ran a fruit and vegetable shop, served at his Bonpara church and was respected among villagers.
"I am shocked and saddened. My brother had no enemies,” says his brother Proshanto Gomes, a Christian minister in Dinajpur. “We ask what could have motivated his murder?"
Benedict, a Christian leader in Bonpara, says that "the faithful of the village live in brotherhood with the people of other religions. Why did they attack us?”
He calls for severe punishment for the extremists, who in the past have escaped justice. "Two months ago, an elderly Christian couple was attacked, but the police did not arrest anyone." Benedict added.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the murder through its Amaq news agency, according to the SITE monitoring group, saying it was "part of a series of operations" in Bangladesh.
The local Christian community lives in fear. Only hours earlier the wife of Police Superintendent Babul Aktar—a man fighting hard against militants and drug cartels—had been stabbed
The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, Oikya Parishad, organized a human chain Sunday afternoon and imposed a seven-day ultimatum for the capture of the killers to draw government attention and ask for protection.
Sunil’s murder happened just hours after the wife of Superintendent of Police Babul Aktar was stabbed and shot to death by three bike-borne assailants as she walked her six-year-old son to a bus stop in southeast Bangladesh. Her husband has led several high-profile operations against terrorists and drug cartels in the region.
Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the murder of Sunil Gomez and the officer’s wife, Mahmuda Khanam.
Over 40 people have died in the past three years in a series of attacks targeting activists and non-Muslims. Attacks have increased recently, but Bangladeshi authorities hold political rivals and homegrown Islamist terrorists responsible and reject any involvement from foreign terrorist groups.