'Pir' killed in Rajshahi | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 08, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:26 AM, May 08, 2016

'Pir' killed in northern Bangladesh district of Rajshahi

Motive unknown but killing style bears hallmark of militants

Less than half a month back a university professor was brutally murdered in the district. Almost in a similar fashion, a pir (spiritual leader) was killed there by unknown assailants on Friday night.

Shahidullah, 65, of Mohanondakhali area in the district's Poba upazila, was found dead in a mango orchard at Jumarpara village of Tanore upazila, said police and family members.

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With his throat slit, there were gashes in his right shoulder.

Shahidullah, who according to locals and family members was a practitioner of Sufism, ran a grocery at Nawhata College intersection of Poba.

Police could not say what the motive was, but the killing resembles targeted attacks that left secularist online activists and writers and people of different faiths and ideologies dead over the last few years.

Between April 6 and 30, machete-wielding attackers killed at least five persons -- online activist Nazimuddin Samad, Prof Rezaul Karim Siddiquee of Rajshahi University, LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Mahbub Tonoy and Hindu tailor Nikhil Joardar of Tangail.

On April 23, Prof Rezaul was brutally murdered in Rajshahi city's Shalbagan area. The 58-year-old professor of English was hit in the neck with a scissor-like sharp weapon.

Islamist militants are suspected to have committed these murders.   

Nisarul Arif, superintendent of police in Rajshahi, told The Daily Star that police were investigating into the murder of Shahidullah, focusing on two possible reasons.

Shahidullah's involvement in Sufism might have “hurt” somebody, or it was a consequence of land dispute, said the police official.

Abdur Razzak, officer-in-charge of Tanore Police Station, said that on information from locals, police recovered the body around 10:00pm Friday.

The assailants might have hacked Shahidullah first and then slit his throat, he added. 

Police also recovered a bag containing some land-related documents near the body.

An autopsy was performed yesterday at Rajshahi Medical College (RMC) morgue where his family members were present.

The victim's son, Russel Ahmed, 26, said his father received repeated mobile calls on Friday morning and came home hurriedly shutting the shop. He left around 8:30am saying he would go to Chapainawabganj.

“Several disciples had talks with him over mobile phone till noon. Afterwards, his phone was switched off,” Russel told this correspondent.

From the brief phone conversations, it could be only learnt that his father was on the way to Chapainawabganj, he added. 

Family members quoted locals as saying that Shahidullah was seen on a motorcycle with two unknown youths.

Russel filed a murder case against unnamed persons with Tanore Police Station yesterday.

In the case statement, he mentioned his father as a “spiritual Sufi leader” and said he had knowledge over land affairs.

People who are against Sufism in Poba and Chapainawabganj had threatened Shahidullah several times in the past, he said.

“Anti-Sufism people in Chapainawabganj asked him not to meet his followers in the district,” Russel told reporters at the RMC.

A father of five, Shahidullah became a disciple of pir Nur Muhammad of Rajbari district about two and a half decades earlier, said his brother Shariful Islam.

Later, he got his own followers in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj. He used to hold discussions with them regularly at his grocery and home, added Shariful.

“He was a very good person. He had no personal enemy,” said his another brother, Bazlur Rahman.

Bazlur added he heard about the threats his brother had received from some people of Chapainawabganj a few months earlier over his spiritual practices.

Sufism is a mystical belief and practice among a section of Muslims.

"He was not a famous Sufi. But there was a possibility that he was killed by Islamist militants," Rajshahi district police chief Nisarul Arif told AFP.

The police officer said the killing of the self-proclaimed Sufi master was "similar" to other recent hackings of religious minorities carried out by attackers with machetes or cleavers, reports the news agency.

On April 30, unidentified assailants hacked Hindu tailor Nikhil Joardar to death at his shop in Tangail in broad daylight.

Global terror outfit Islamic State (IS) reportedly claimed responsibility for the murder of Prof Rezaul and Nikhil.

On April 25, unidentified assailants hacked to death Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy in a flat in the capital's Kalabagan. Militant outfit Ansar al-Islam reportedly claimed credit for the double murder.

Besides, Ex-PDB chairman Muhammad Khizir Khan, who was also a pir, was murdered at his Madhya Badda house in Dhaka on October 5 last year.

Members of the banned militant outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) are suspected to have killed him.

The Daily Star found that between December 2013 and October last year, five pirs and six of their family members and assistants were murdered by assailants.

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