ISIS claims attack on Shi'ite mosque in Bangladesh

Police guarding a Shi'ite mosque in Dhaka yesterday after security was stepped up following an attack on a mosque in Bogra.
Police guarding a Shi'ite mosque in Dhaka yesterday after security was stepped up following an attack on a mosque in Bogra.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DHAKA • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shi'ite mosque in Bangladesh this week, which killed one person and wounded three others as they prayed.

It was the second attack on the country's tiny Shi'ite Muslim community in a month.

Witnesses said three young men stormed into the mosque in north- western Bogra district during early evening prayers and shot at worshippers indiscriminately on Thursday.

"The attackers entered the mosque and opened fire on the devotees after locking the main gate, and then fled immediately after the shooting," said police official Ahsan Habib. Two people from nearby villages had been picked up for questioning about the attack, said Mr Arifur Rahman, another police officer.

SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist activity, said that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack, just as it did for the previous bombing on the biggest Shi'ite shrine in the country.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh has seen a rise in Islamist violence in recent months, with two foreigners, four secular writers and a publisher killed this year. Shi'ites are a tiny minority in Bangladesh, whose population of about 160 million is almost entirely Sunni, and have not been the target of sectarian violence.

Mr Shamim Mohammad Afzal, director-general of Bangladesh's Islamic Foundation, said the nature and timing of the assault was especially alarming. "We have never seen this type of attack on any mosque in the history of Bangladesh," he said.

Tensions have been rising since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a crackdown on militants, putting several leaders on trial for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence. About a dozen Christian priests in the north have also received death threats, a week after an Italian doctor working as a missionary was shot and wounded, police said on Thursday.

"We have already stepped up security around the churches," local police chief Abdullah Al Faruk said.

Bangladesh's government has rejected ISIS' claims of involvement in the attacks and says local militants were involved. Critics say the government is whipping up a climate of fear in order to go after its political rivals.

Earlier on Thursday, police said they had killed a top militant suspected of having masterminded the Oct 24 attack on the Shi'ite shrine in Dhaka. They said he was the military chief of a banned underground militant group.

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'ISIS claims attack on Shi'ite mosque in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe