08/03/2005, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Bangladesh: Two Christians are killed by unknown attackers

The victims were involved in a Protestant NGO. They may have been killed because their religious beliefs and social commitment. This is a new indication of growing fundamentalism.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Ucan) – Two Protestants were hacked to death in a village in south-east Dhaka, Bangladesh. The victims, Tapan Kumar Roy, 30 years, and Liplal Malandi, aged 35, worked for Christian Life Bangladesh – an international NGO – in the village of Dhupapara, near Bolamari in Faridpur.

Police and village residents said the victims were at home asleep when their door was kicked in at around 2am on 29 July. The attackers broke in and stabbed the two men several times. Resident said the killers chained the doors of the house to prevent anyone from going to the victims' aid. However, some people who heard their cries rushed to the scene and took them to Bolamari hospital, where they were declared dead. Police transferred the bodies to the hospital Faridpur Sadar for autopsy and they have arrested a suspect.

Abdur Rouf, a police officer in Bolamari, said the double homicide is the outcome of long-standing enmities. Harun Ar Rashid, assistant superintendent of police in Faridpur, told reporters the two may have been killed because they are Christians. Although police have not yet managed to determine the motive of the brutal homicide, some suspect it is linked to the victims' religious activities, among them screening films on the life of Jesus. According to residents, other than films on the life of Jesus Christ, Roy and Marandi invited people to watch television programs about the risk of poisoning from well water, about health risks facing women and children, about preventing marriages between people who are too young, and about the risk of AIDS.

Over the last eight months, the two victims – who were the only representatives of the NGO in the region – worked in the areas of Alphadanga and Bolamari where, according to local journalists, some people were opposed to their work. Bipul Kumar Bagchi, owner of the house they rented, told police the assassins could be Islamic fundamentalists angered by the victims' preaching.

Peter Bose, supervisor of the Christian Life Bangladesh program in the village, said that the two were engaged in awareness-creating programs and they wanted to show a documentary on Jesus, but only with the permission of villagers. However, Bose added, some locals barred them from screening the video and threatened to kill them if they continued their work.

AsiaNews sources who are experts on Bangladesh, described this as a "worrying" time for freedom of worship in Bangladesh: Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise and the government is succumbing to its pressure, becoming complicit in discrimination and violence against minority communities. The same sources warned that extremist groups in Bangladesh are operating on several fronts and they are secretly forming an entire generation of youths to be fundamentalists.

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