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New hit-list threatens Bangladeshi teachers, politicians

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Bangladeshi people hold lighted candles and walk in a rally during Martyrs Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Dec. 14, 2015. The slaying in Bangladesh of a U.S. Agency for International Development employee has intensified U.S. concern that the strategically located South Asian country with traditions of religious tolerance is under threat from Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/A.M.Ahad)

Bangladeshi people hold lighted candles and walk in a rally during Martyrs Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Dec. 14, 2015. The slaying in Bangladesh of a U.S. Agency for International Development employee has intensified U.S. concern that the strategically located South Asian country with traditions of religious tolerance is under threat from Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/A.M.Ahad)<br />

Bangladesh police were Tuesday investigating a new hit-list that includes the head of a university, journalists and ruling party officials, after a series of gruesome killings.

Police said they were taking seriously the threat to kill 10 people listed in a leaflet that was sent to a press club in the northwestern town of Natore on Monday by a hitherto unknown group.

Among those named was the head of Rajshahi University, where a liberal professor was hacked to death by suspected Islamists less than two weeks ago.

“The leaflet bears the name of Islami Liberation Front. It said it has launched a mission to kill the 10 people” Natore police chief Shymal Kumar Mukherjee told AFP.

“We don’t know anything about this group. There are no previous information about this group. We have taken the matter seriously,” he said.

The Muslim-majority nation is reeling from a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants.

The Islami Liberation Front said its objectives were to establish an Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh by toppling what it called the “repressive” government.

Police in the city of Rajshahi said they had provided security for those named and were investigating the authenticity of the threat.

“We’re giving special attention to these people,” deputy chief of Rajshahi police Sardar Tamizuddin Ahmed told AFP.

Police said more than 1,000 students and teachers and students rallied on the Rajshahi University campus on Tuesday to protest at the murder of English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, who was a poet and leading cultural activist.

Shortly after his killing, which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, two gay activists were hacked to death elsewhere.

Their killings were subsequently claimed by a Bangladeshi branch of Al-Qaeda.

Teachers and students have been boycotting classes at the university since Siddique’s murder on April 23, demanding justice and the arrest of the killers.

“The killers must be brought to book immediately. The government must protect the teachers and liberal voices as we’re all feeling insecure,” the head of Rajshahi University Teachers Association, Shahid Ullah, told AFP.

Bangladesh’s government has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the tide of violence, with at least 30 members of religious minorities, secular bloggers and other liberal activists, foreigners and intellectuals murdered in the past three years.

It has rejected claims of outside involvement in the killings, saying neither the IS group nor Al-Qaeda have a presence in the country.

Both the government and the police blame banned local militant groups for the attacks.

A long-running political crisis in officially secular Bangladesh has radicalised opponents of the government and analysts say Islamist extremists pose a growing danger.



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