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Story highlights

Mahmuda Khanam Mitu was killed while walking her son to bus stop

Government minister says attack could be revenge for husband's anti-terror work

(CNN) —  

The wife of a prominent anti-terror police officer was stabbed and shot to death Sunday in an apparently targeted killing in the coastal Bangladeshi city of Chittagong, a local police commissioner said.

Mahmuda Khanam Mitu, wife of decorated police superintendent Babul Akter, was attacked by three assailants at a busy intersection about 90 meters from her home at about 7 a.m. local time, Chittagong Police Commissioner Iqbal Bahar said.

The 32-year-old woman was taking her son to catch his school bus when the attackers approached her from behind, threw her to the ground, stabbed her eight times and shot her in the head, Bahar said.

The attackers, estimated to be in their mid-20s, fired into the air to spark panic as they fled, he said. Her son was unscathed.

Home minister: Possible ‘militant revenge’

Akter, the slain woman’s husband, had led high-profile operations against the banned Islamist group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and had been facing threats as a result.

Senior officials suggested that the killing was linked to his work.

“It seems to be a planned killing. Akter successfully cornered militancy in Chittagong. So there could be a link (to) militants,” said Bahar, adding that no such link had been confirmed.

Bangladesh’s Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal told reporters as he visited Mitu’s grieving family that the “pre-planned murder” had been “done to break down the morale of the police.”

“It could be an act of militant revenge,” he said, according to state-run news agency BSS.

Police are reviewing security camera footage in an attempt to identify the assailants, Bahar said.

Decorated counter-terror officer

Trained in the U.S. and China, Akter had conducted major counterterror operations against Islamist militants in the cities of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, earning a number of bravery awards for his efforts.

In October, following an operation against the JMB which killed leader Mohammad Javed, Akter was attacked by JMB militants. He has since been concerned about his family’s safety, Bangladeshi media reported.

Akter had recently transferred to work at police headquarters in the capital, Dhaka.

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Spate of killings

An officially secular but Muslim majority nation, Bangladesh has recently been weathering a surge of targeted killings – blamed on Islamist radicals – that have claimed the lives of secularists, religious minorities and gay activists.

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According to Marcia Bernicat, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, there have been at least 35 such attacks carried out in the span of 14 months. Of those, 23 have been claimed by an Islamist terror group.

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In September, Islamic extremists said they wanted to take their war against secular writers beyond Bangladesh’s borders. They released a “hit list” of people they would target in Europe and North America.

Amnesty International alleges that Bangladesh authorities have done little to discourage the killings.

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CNN’s Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.