Police in Bangladesh are searching for three assailants who hacked a Hindu tailor to death as he sat outside his shop in the central city of Tangail on Saturday afternoon and then fled on motorbikes.
Nikhil Chandra Joarder, 50, is the most recent victim in a string of similar hacking deaths in Bangladesh, all of which have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS).
According to the US-based monitoring group SITE, IS militants say they killed Joarder because he had blasphemed Prophet Mohammed.
Hindus make up about nine percent of Bangladesh's population.
Police official Abdul Jalil told Reuters that witnesses reported the attackers fled the scene after murdering Joarder. Officials are investigating whether his death is connected to a complaint made against him in 2012, in which he was accused of making a derogatory comment about the Prophet Mohammed. He was jailed for a few weeks but released after the complaint was withdrawn, Jalil said.
Earlier this week, Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent gay rights activist and editor of the country's only LGBT magazine, and his friend were hacked to death at his Dhaka apartment. Last weekend, an English professor was hacked to death while on his way to work, supposedly on account of his "atheism."
In February, a top Hindu priest was beheaded by militants inside a temple in northern Bangladesh. IS claimed responsibility for his death, but police found no connections between the three people they arrested for his murder and the terror group.
Authorities have consistently denied that IS are active on Bangladesh soil.
However, a tangled web of extremist and militant groups has long existed in Bangladesh. Those groups are becoming increasingly active, and their victims increasingly diverse.
Bloggers and scientists, Hindus and humanitarians, free-thinkers and foreigners, religious minorities and academics, have all been targeted, many of them meeting similarly brutal ends as Joarder did.
On Thursday, US Secretary John Kerry called Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to offer support for the investigation into the attack that killed Mannan, urging Hasina to double down on law enforcement efforts to prevent future attacks, and ensure recent murders are thoroughly investigated.
Last September, an Italian aid worker was killed by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, the nation's capital. Just days later, a Japanese national was murdered in northern Bangladesh. IS claimed responsibility for both killings. During a press conference after the two murders, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hastily ruled out the possibility that IS militants were active in Bangladesh.
"Until now, IS or global terror groups like it have not been able to operate in Bangladesh," Hasina said. "Our intelligence agencies are active… we will not allow any such activities in Bangladesh."
In the following months, the Sunni terror group claimed responsibility for a number of other attacks. In October, IS claimed responsibility for a series of explosions targeting Shiite Muslims in Dhaka during a religious procession, killing one person. In November, militants stormed a Shiite mosque, and opened fire, killing one and injuring three. Again, Bangladesh officials doubted IS claims of responsibility and alleged that the group's leaders were simply seeking media attention.
Hasina has previously pointed a finger at the country's opposition group, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and its allegedly "allied armed groups".
"The BNP-Jamaat nexus has been engaged in such secret and heinous murders in various forms to destabilize the country," Hasina said, referring to the outlawed, fundamentalist group, Jamaat-e-Islami. "Such killings are being staged in a planned way." The BNP described Hasina's accusations as "ridiculous and unfortunate."
In 2013, a "hit list" of secularists was circulated — letting free-thinkers and bloggers know that they should fear for their lives if they continued to speak out in favor of atheism. By 2015, those threats became a reality, and the rising tide of religious extremist violence started sweeping Bangladesh. Five secular bloggers were killed in 2015 in separate incidents.
Critics of Hasina's government say she has failed to rein in extremist violence by failing to defend secularism and carrying out toothless investigations.