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Homeopathic practitioner hacked to death in Bangladesh

Attackers with a machete killed Sanaur Rahman, in what may be part of a series of murders of non-Muslims. Seven have taken place in the past month; victims include secular bloggers, a Buddhist monk and a Hindu tailor.

A homeopathic doctor was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in western Bangladesh on Friday. A university professor was also badly wounded in what police suspect to be the latest attack by Islamic militants against people of different beliefs in the majority-Muslim country.

Sanaur Rahman, who ran a homeopathic medical clinic, was riding a motorcycle in the town of Kushtia with his friend Saif uz Zaman on Friday morning when at least three men, also on a motorbike, blocked their path and launched an attack.

A bloody machete was found at the scene of the attack, 150 miles (245 km) west of the capital, Dhaka. Initial reports varied on Rahman's age, putting him at either 58 or 55, while Zaman was reportedly 45.

A Baul festival goer, with wild, long, hair and a stick in his hand dances during a live music event.

A Baul festival goer dances during a live music event

At the time of the attack, Rahman was on his way to a free weekly clinic he operated.

Police offered conflicting theories as to what may have motivated the attackers. Kushtia police superintendent Proloy Chisim told the AFP news agency that despite clear similarities with past murders, "we are primarily suspecting personal enmity."

Rahman's relatives dismissed this, describing him as a popular doctor who handed out free homeopathic solutions to the poor.

"He used to distribute homeopathic medicine to villagers at his garden house every Friday," his brother-in-law Obaidur Rahman said. "We don't think he had any enemies."

"We are probing whether there are some other links including a connection to Islamist militants," police inspector Mohammad Shahabuddin Chowdhury said.

From secular bloggers to Buddhist monks

Since February 2015 at least 26 people have been brutally murdered in what appears to be a pattern of attacks against social minorities in the South Asian country of 160 million people.

The victims include five secular bloggers, two gay rights campaigners, academics, members of religious minorities and foreign aid workers. Seven such murders, including the hacking deaths of a Buddhist monk and a Hindu tailor, have occurred in the past month.

Both al Qaeda and the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) have at times claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. But Bangladeshi authorities have dismissed such claims, insisting that any Islamic militants in the country are home-grown.

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Police are offering a 1.8 million-taka ($23,000 or 20,400-euro) reward for information leading to the arrests of six militants belonging to a home-grown extremist group called Ansarullah Bangla Team. The banned organization is believed to be behind the killings of the bloggers.

Both Rahman and Zaman were fans of a mystical musical tradition known as Baul, which is popular in the region. The doctor's brother-in-law said Rahman used to arrange concerts at his home.

The Bauls, or "mystic minstrels" as they are known locally, have long been dismissed as hippies and even killed after being branded heretics by the country's religious extremists.

bik/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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