NEW DELHI: On Sunday Islamic State hacked to death a Christian shopkeeper in western Bangladesh.

Sunil Gomez, 65, was found dead in his shop in Bonpara, one of Bangladesh’s oldest Christian communities.

That afternoon, local Christians held a protest rally demanding the immediate arrest of the killers. They argued that the police were not doing enough to halt the spread of violent extremism which has engulfed the country. They cited the previous murder of Christian resident Gabriel Costa whose killer has not yet been found, as evidence of police complacency.

Sunil “attended Sunday prayers at my church and then went to his grocery store. The next thing we know he was hacked to death. I can't imagine how anyone can kill such an innocent man”, local priest Father Rebeiro told AFP.

Sunil’s death came just hours after the murder of a top police official’s wife in Chittagong. Mahmuda Khanam Mitu’s husband, Babul Akter had been leading an investigation against Islamic extremists. The killing, also claimed by Islamic State, is thought to have been a ‘revenge’ attack.

CCTV footage reportedly shows three men on motorbikes repeatedly stabbing and then shooting her in front of her six-year-old son.

Bangladesh, despite being founded on the principle of secularism, has long failed to live up to its promise. Regular violence, discrimination and at times persecution have driven religious minorities into increasingly marginalised positions. Many have fled to neighbouring India and Myanmar.

These two murders are the latest in a series of attacks by Islamist militants in Bangladesh. Over the last two years, similar attacks have targeted atheists, bloggers, publishers, academics, foreigners, civil and gay rights activists, police officers and various religious minorities. At least 10 people are thought to have been murdered by Islamist militants since February alone, symbolising the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country.

Extremists have also targeted Shia communities in Bangladesh, in the hope of engendering sectarian tension.

Islamic State and Al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for numerous killings but the Bangladesh government denies the claims, asserting that there are no foreign Islamist groups in the country. The Awami League government blames political opponents for the killings, asserting that they are trying to destabilise the government. Indeed some have argued that the rise of terrorism is more a response to the Awami League’s stifling of opposition.

Whatever organisations are behind the killings it is clear that secularism is becoming increasingly non-existent in Bangladesh. Blasphemy laws, the reaffirmation of a state religion and recent comments by state officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, symbolise an increasingly intolerant and religious trajectory.

In April, Sheikh Hasina said of atheism; “if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?”

“Why the government would take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents?” she continued.

Statements like these do little to console Bangladesh’s religious and liberal minorities. With India’s recent commitment to fast-track citizenship for Hindu refugees, will we see a new influx of Hindus, Christians and others fleeing an increasingly hostile climate in Bangladesh?