DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A doctor was hacked to death and his friend critically wounded by men wielding machetes in western Bangladesh, police said, in the latest attack on the country's atheist bloggers, minorities and others who promote liberal views.
Local police chief Proloy Chisim said the two were hit Friday by three attackers who fled on a motorbike in the western district of Kushtia.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its news agency Amaq said Friday that Sanaur Rahman, a homeopath doctor, was attacked because he promoted Christianity.
The claim could not be verified independently. Bangladesh authorities deny that the Islamic State group has any presence in the country.
The recent killings by suspected Islamist extremists have heightened concerns about the safety of advocates of secularism and free speech in Bangladesh.
Chisim said Rahman, 60, and the second victim, Mohammed Saifuzzaman, were intercepted at a quiet place near Kushtia town by the attackers. Police recovered a machete from the scene. The area is nearly 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of the capital, Dhaka.
Rahman was known to villagers as a kind doctor who provided free treatment and medicines to the poor people.
He and Saifuzzaman were good friends as they both followed the mystic Baul philosophy of Sufi Muslims.
Saifuzzaman teaches at the state-run Islamic University and is known to friends as a secular man and a promoter of Baul philosophy. In January, he returned home after completing his doctorate on Baul philosophy from an Indian university.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has accused the opposition of supporting religious radicals it blames for recent attacks on bloggers, minority Shiites, Christians and foreigners. It has dismissed the claims by the Islamic State group of carrying out several of the attacks.