Dhaka: Three elderly Sufi Muslims, including two women, were on Sunday attacked in their sleep by machete-wielding men in western Bangladesh's border town with India and suffered critical injuries in the latest in a spate of deadly attacks on religious minorities in the Muslim-majority nation.
Eight to 10 assailants attacked several 'Bauls' (mystic singers) around midnight with sharp weapons, iron rods and bamboo sticks at their 'Akhra' (residing place) at Ektarpur village in Chadanga district, some 240 kms from here.
"The miscreants were equipped with bamboo sticks and machetes as they attacked the 'Akhra'... three of the singers were injured in the assault as they were asleep," a police officer at the scene told PTI over phone.
Rashida Khatun, 60, Abdur Rahim, 65, and his wife Bulu Begum, 50, were injured and are now undergoing treatment at a local health complex.
All the three injured are in critical state, The Daily Star quoted Anisur Rahman, a doctor of Chuadanga Sadar Hospital, as saying.
The other Bauls, however, managed to flee the spot, said Mukul Hossein, landlord of the Akhra. "It could not be known who or why they attacked the Bauls," Hossein said.
The Baul community renders mystic songs disseminating messages of universal harmony, which is close to the Muslim Sufi thoughts, and do not perform the routine Islamic rituals.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police suspected the hardliner Muslims in the region to have carried out the attack as the denounce mysticism as "un-Islamic".
Victim Bulu Begum told reporters that seven to eight men barged into the Akhra and started beating them with iron rods.
"Bauls from different areas come to this Akhra. We also went there."
She said only three of them were there during the attack, and that they could not identify the attackers. The locals heard them scream and rushed them to the hospital. All of them sustained injuries inflicted by iron rods, doctor Masud Rana was quoted as saying by bdnews.com.
"We have found some slash wounds on Rahim's head," he said, adding Rashida has injuries on the face and leg, and the third victim had been referred to Rajshahi as her leg injuries seemed critical.
An investigation is on into the incident, which comes over two months after a 65-year-old Muslim Sufi preacher was hacked to death in central Bangladesh, in an attack that bore the hallmark of previous murders of intellectuals, bloggers and minorities by Islamists in the country.
Bangladesh in the past two years has witnessed deadly attacks on liberal and secular writers and activists, religious minorities including Hindus and moderate Sufis and Shiites.