There seems to be no end to the gruesome killings in Bangladesh. The body of a 75-year-old Buddhist monk was found Saturday morning with his throat slit in a small monastery in the country's remote southeast.
His daughter-in-law found him at 5 a.m., when she went to bring him food.
Mong Shwe U Chak had lived alone in the monastery in hilly Bandarban district for the past two years, police said. His death bore the hallmarks of a spate of recent hacking deaths of secular Muslims and members of minority religious communities that have been blamed on radical Islamists.
Jyotirmoy Barua, a human rights lawyer who is close to the Buddhist community, told journalists that U Chak had received anonymous threats before he was killed.
"He had received death threats, but nobody took it seriously," Barua said.
A police official in Naikkhangchhari, where the monastery is located, said authorities collected evidence from the site but did not have any suspects.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Bangladesh's government is facing growing criticism at home and abroad for the apparent inability of its law enforcement agencies to end the killings. At least 15 people have died in targeted attacks over the past year, including secular bloggers, foreign priests and aid workers.
In recent weeks, the pace of the bloodshed has accelerated.
Last week, a Sufi Muslim religious leader was found hacked to death in a pool of blood in a mango grove in northern Bangladesh. That followed killings in previous weeks of a gay rights activist and a Hindu tailor, both of whom were fatally wounded with machetes.
Islamic State and Al Qaeda – rival Islamist extremist organizations that are jockeying for a foothold in the South Asian nation – have claimed some of the previous slayings, although the government denies that either has a presence in Bangladesh.
Western diplomats are increasingly alarmed at the violence and at what they see as a lack of urgency from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government to deal with the problem. Hasina has often blamed the violence on her political rivals, including the most powerful Islamist political party, and has continued a crackdown on the opposition that many believe is fueling an extremist backlash.
Earlier this week, a former leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami was hanged following his conviction by a special court that Bangladesh established to try suspects accused of war crimes during its 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan. Three other Jamaat leaders were also executed following what critics called unfair trials, leading to accusations that Hasina is using the court to target her political opponents.
Bangladesh, a country of 160 million, is overwhelmingly Muslim but until recently had not been seen as a hotbed of Islamist extremism. The economy has improved thanks to a large garment manufacturing sector, and the country has won praise for expanding access to healthcare, sanitation and other social needs.
Special correspondent Kader reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.