DHAKA - Three men stormed a mosque in Bangladesh and attacked a cleric with cleavers, leaving him critically injured, police said Tuesday.

The men attacked the mosque in the remote village of Khanpur in northern Bangladesh Monday shortly after the evening call for prayer and set upon Mustafizur Rahman, district police chief Syed Nurul Islam told AFP.

"He was hacked at least four times including in his neck and near the back of his stomach.

 The cut in the neck was very deep," he said, adding the 32-year-old was in hospital in Dhaka and in a critical condition.

Villagers caught and beat one of the men. But police said it was not clear whether those responsible belonged to the extremist groups behind a wave of attacks on religious minorities and foreigners in Bangladesh.

Analysts say militants pose a growing danger in conservative Bangladesh and that a long-running political crisis has radicalised opponents of the government.