The Islamic State on Friday claimed an attack on minority Shias at a mosque in northern Bangladesh, raising questions about claims by authorities that the extremist group has no presence 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.
“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.
Police arrested two suspects in Bogra district after a case was filed following Thursday’s attack.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected statements by the IS claiming responsibility for earlier attacks on foreigners and Christian priests, saying the Sunni extremist group had no presence in Bangladesh.
But the continuous violent campaign is a clear indication that Bangladesh is apparently headed for troubled times, observers said.
Unidentified assailants had fired at more than 15 Shia Muslims praying in the mosque at Shibganj in Bogra district on Thursday evening, leaving a man dead and three others wounded.
The attack took place after a military commander of Jamatul Mujahdeen Bangladesh (JMB) was killed in a “gunfight” with security officials in a Dhaka suburb during a raid in the early hours on Thursday, police said.
Joint commissioner Munirul Islam of the Detective Branch said the gunfight erupted when “commander” al Bani’s accomplices opened fire during the raid.
Confusion reigns as detectives say local radical groups are behind the attacks on secular bloggers, foreigners and Shias, but the IS has claimed responsibility for some key attacks.
The IS had also claimed responsibility for the October 24 attack on a gathering of Shias ahead of an annual religious rally in Dhaka. One man died and more than 100 were injured in the attack in the old quarters of the city.
But authorities rejected the claim by the IS and investigators have focused on the JMB. Police are currently interrogating five JMB members allegedly involved in the October 24 attack.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has repeatedly insisted there is no IS in the country and that local radical groups like the JMB and Ansarullah Bangla Team, which “are rooted into Jamaat-e-Islami”, are using the name of the IS.
Prime Minister Hasina has blamed the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by her arch-rival Khaleda Zia, and its main political partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami, for the recent attacks aimed at destabilising the country.
Hasina also accused the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami of attempting to derail the war crimes trial of top leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which openly opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and formed militia groups that helped Pakistani soldiers commit serious crimes in 1971.