DHAKA – Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of university professor in Bangladesh for “calling to atheism”. The claim was reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militants websites. Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, was attacked from behind with machetes as he walked from his home to a bus station in the north-western city of Rajshahi, where he taught English at the public university, police said. “His neck was hacked at least three times and was 70%-80% severed,” said the Rajshahi police commissioner, Mohammad Shamsuddin. By examining the nature of the attack, we suspect that it was carried out by extremist groups,police comissioner said. Nahidul Islam, a deputy commissioner of police, said Siddique was involved in cultural programmes and set up a music school at Bagmara, a former bastion of an outlawed militant group, Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). “The attack is similar to the ones carried out on [atheist] bloggers in the recent past,” he said. Sajidul Karim Siddique, a brother of the victim, said the academic was a “very quiet and simple man” who focused on studying and teaching. “So far as we know, he did not have any known enemies and we never found him worried,” he said. Sakhawat Hossain, a friend and fellow English professor from the university, said Siddique played the tanpura, a musical instrument popular in South Asia, and wrote poems and short stories. “He used to lead a cultural group called Komol Gandhar and edit a biannual literary magazine with the same name. But he never wrote or spoke against religion in public,” he said. Police said Siddique was the fourth professor from Rajshahi university to be murdered. In February, a court handed down life sentences to two militants for the murder of Prof Mohammad Yunus. The killing on Saturday triggered a protest by the university’s teachers and students, who blocked a major road and demanded the immediate arrest of the killers. Bangladeshi militants have been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers and online activists since 2013, most recently in the capital, Dhaka, early this month. Police said that in each of the attacks, unidentified assailants hacked the victim to death with machetes or cleavers.