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Bangladesh: No Evidence Links IS, Killing of Foreign Aid Worker

Bangladeshi police and detectives stand by the site where Italian citizen Cesare Tavella was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, Sept. 29, 2015.
Bangladeshi police and detectives stand by the site where Italian citizen Cesare Tavella was gunned down by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, Sept. 29, 2015.

Bangladesh's home minister said Tuesday that there was no evidence that Islamic State terrorists carried out the recent assassination of an Italian aid worker in the capital, Dhaka.

Three unidentified gunmen shot Cesare Tavella on Monday in the city's diplomatic zone and then fled on a motorbike.

Tavella was the local project manager of Innovative Change Collaborative, a Netherlands-based global development agency. Police said his assailants had tracked him before the attack.

Hours after Tavella's death, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online activities of radical Islamic groups, reported that IS claimed a “security detachment” had tracked Tavella in Dhaka and then had shot him using “silenced weapons.”

But a day after the slaying, Bangladesh’s home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said there was no evidence that IS was behind it.

"The killing might have stemmed from a personal rivalry with someone or even a conflict between his NGO and others," Kamal said at a news conference in Dhaka. "All leads, including that of the connection of any militant group, will be investigated thoroughly. We have not found the existence of any network related to IS in Bangladesh as yet.”

No theft

Muntasirul Islam, deputy commissioner of the media wing of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said it did not seem to be a mugging because the attackers did not take the victim's belongings. “On the basis of our experience, we can say that it is a pre-planned murder. We are interrogating some people who witnessed the attack. We hope we will be able to crack the case soon,” Islam told VOA.

But Kamal said, "Our police should independently verify whether the IS had actually claimed responsibility for the killing.”

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the Italian news agency Ansa that his office was also checking the IS claim.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh prides itself on being a secular nation. But the country has been struggling to contain rapidly rising militant Islamist groups who have killed at least 10 secular bloggers and activists in the past 2½ years. Police said Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a local hard-line Islamist group, was behind most of the killings. Following interrogation of some suspected ABT members, Bangladesh police said the Bangladeshi group has links with al-Qaida in South Asia.

Police said that they have not found evidence of IS in Bangladesh yet. If a link to Tavella's death were proved, it would mark the group’s first attack in Bangladesh.

Security worries

There have been growing concerns in some Western nations about the deteriorating security situation in Bangladesh.

Tavella’s killing came three days after Australia’s foreign ministry announced that it had reliable information that some militants “may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh.” Britain issued similar warnings.

The killing came just hours after Australia’s national cricket team postponed a planned trip to Bangladesh over security concerns. Soon after Tavella's death, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka instructed its diplomats not to go outside overnight.

“There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh. Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including U.S. citizens,” read a statement from the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in the U.S. State Department.