Members of the Islamic State terrorist group have claimed responsibility for the brutal killing of Hussein Ali Sarkar, declaring that the death of the Christian man was intended to serve as a "lesson" to other believers.
As reported by The Gospel Herald, at least two attackers stopped 68-year-old Hussain, who had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1999, while he was taking his regular morning walk in the town of Kurigram in Bangladesh. The men reportedly lunged at his neck with sharp weapons.
"He died on the spot. The attackers exploded a molotov cocktail to create panic and left the scene on a motorcycle," Kurigram district police chief Tobarak Ullah told AFP.
In a communique posted on Twitter, ISIS on Wednesday took responsibility for the attack and said the murder was "a lesson to others", according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity on the Internet.
"A security detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate was able, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, to kill the apostate (Ali), who changed his religion and became a preacher for the polytheist Christianity," the statement said.
Reuters notes that over the last few months, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killings of two foreigners, attacks on members of minority Christian sects and other religious groups. However, the Bangladesh government continues to deny that ISIS has a presence in the country, and police on Wednesday rejected the group's claim of responsibility for the latest killing, insisting it was "bogus".
"We're investigating the killing. A case has been filed and we've arrested five men for questioning," Tobarak Ullah, police chief in the northern district of Kurigram where the killing took place, told AFP.
Nearly 90% of Bangladesh's estimated 169 million people are Muslim, with a Hindu minority of about 10%, and other minorities, such as Christians and Buddhists, making up less than 1%, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Bangladesh ranked 35th on Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
"As the Christian minority is growing, it faces more and more restrictions and challenges," reads the report. "This pressure is not driven by the government, but by radical Islamic groups, local religious leaders and families. The competition between the large political parties of the country is also a factor, as the government is pressured to give in to demands from Islamic groups taking to the streets in protest."
Hussein joins thousands of others killed for their faith by Islamic extremists, prompting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to officially declare ISIS is committing "genocide" against Christians and other ancient minority groups.
"Christians are being massacred because of their faith," Mark Arabo, president of the California-based Minority Humanitarian Foundation, told The Gospel Herald. "Their churches have been bombed, their houses have been taken away, their clothes have been stripped from them. They're left in the desert in camps, begging for someone to rescue them. They've lost everything they have because of ISIS, but they haven't lost their faith, they haven't lost their hope."