Assailants hacked to death a Bangladeshi professor early Saturday near his home in Rajshahi city, authorities said.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, was an English professor at Rajshahi University.
He was waiting for a bus to take him to campus when two or three people attacked him from behind and stabbed him in the neck, according to Sadhir Haider Chowdhury, a city police commissioner.
The professor died on the spot.
It’s unclear whether his attack was related to the recent hacking deaths of bloggers in the nation. An investigation is ongoing.
ISIS claims responsibility
ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing, according to Amaq, the terror group’s media agency.
“ISIS fighters assassinated a University professor for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh,” a statement from the group said.
CNN cannot immediately confirm ISIS’ claim, nor its statement on the religious beliefs of the victim.
Earlier this month, Bangladesh Law and Justice Minister Anisul Huq told CNN that it was “safe to say that there is no existence of ISIS in this country.”
Huq also dismissed reports “about the claim of ISIS that they’re trying to make Bangladesh their base headquarter for operations in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.”
“That’s their claim, one can claim anything,” he said.
Village is a ‘hotbed of militants’
Earlier, a police official said the killers might have been jihadis.
“We believe Islamic militants were behind the attack, because the nature of the incident is similar to previous attacks carried out on atheist writers and activists,” said Nahidul Islam, the city’s deputy police commissioner.
“Siddique was very active organizing cultural events in the university,” Islam said. “He was also planning to open a music school in his home village, Bagmara.”
The village “is a hotbed of JMB militants,” police said. JMB refers to Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a fundamentalist Islamic organization in the nation.
But the deputy police commissioner sounded a cautionary note, saying police had not found evidence that the professor wrote or spoke against Islam.
‘He had no political links’
And Anima Chowdhury, a former student who studied literature with the professor from 2010-2015, said she saw nothing political in him that could have led to such an attack.
“I don’t know what the motive is, but he was a very good person and he had no political links,” Chowdhury said.
“He wasn’t involved in any issues that can cause this — it’s really mysterious and it was really shocking because we didn’t expect something like this could happen to him. I guess we have to wait for the reasons.”
Rajshahi University posted a message of mourning on its Facebook page.
“All classes and exams will be suspended today and tomorrow to protest the killing of our English professor,” the post says.