Italian priest shot and wounded in latest attack on foreigners in Bangladesh: Police

DHAKA (AFP) - Unidentified gunmen shot and wounded an Italian priest on Wednesday (Nov 18) in northern Bangladesh, the latest in a spate of attacks on foreigners that have been blamed on hardline Islamists, police said.

The priest, identified only as "Piero", was riding his bicycle in the northern city of Dinajpur when gunmen on a motorbike shot him several times at close range before fleeing, a police inspector said.

"Riding a motorcycle, unidentified attackers shot an Italian near the Dinajpur bus station in the morning," Inspector Robiul Alam told AFP by phone, adding that he was "seriously injured".

Aged in his 60s, the priest had been working as a doctor at a Catholic mission in Dinajpur for some time, according to another priest Anthony Sen, who lives in the same city.

Father Sen said the priest was "riding a bicycle at around 8am when three attackers shot him at close range".

"One of the bullets hit his neck. He bled a lot," he said.

Insp Alam also confirmed the man attacked is a priest working in Dinajpur, located 350km north of the capital Dhaka, close to the border with India.

The attack comes after an Italian aid worker was shot dead in September and a Japanese farmer killed days later in Dhaka, attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Bangladesh government denied ISIS was behind the attacks, saying there is "no presence of (ISIS) militancy" in the Muslim-majority nation.

The country is also reeling from a series of murders of secular bloggers and a publisher of secular books, attacks claimed by a local banned hardline Islamist group.