The Islamic State terror group on Friday claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shia mosque in northern Bangladesh, calling into question authorities’ refusal to accept reports that the dreaded Sunni outfit has set up base in the country.
A statement from Islamic State-Bangladesh, posted on IS-affiliated Twitter accounts, said the Shia mosque was hit by a barrage of bullets from machine guns. A man died and three others were wounded in the attack on Thursday evening.
“The soldiers of the caliphate targeted a place of worship for the apostates” built with funds from Iran, the statement said. The IS vowed to continue attacks on Shias, a minority in Sunni-majority Bangladesh.
The Sheikh Hasina government had rejected IS statements claiming responsibility for previous attacks on foreigners and Christian priests, saying the group has no presence in the country. Prime Minister Hasina blamed the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by arch-rival Khaleda Zia, and its main political partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami, for the recent attacks.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has repeatedly insisted there is no IS in the country but local radical groups such as the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team, which “are rooted into Jamaat-e-Islami”, are using the IS name.
Although the IS has claimed responsibility for several key attacks, confusion reigns as detectives also followed the official line that local radical groups were behind the attacks on secular bloggers, foreigners and Shias.
Earlier, authorities rejected an IS statement claiming responsibility for the October 24 attack on a gathering of Shias ahead of an annual religious rally in the old quarters of Dhaka.
The investigators focused on the JMB instead. Political observers felt that the spike in violence indicates troubled times for Bangladesh.