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IS Presence Shows Signs of Expanding in Bangladesh

FILE - A Japanese doctor, front right, and the chief security officer of the Japanese Embassy in Bangladesh, center, walk back from the morgue after the autopsy on the body of Kunio Hoshi at Mahiganj village, 300 kilometers north of Dhaka, Oct. 4, 2015.

Bangladesh's home minister says two Islamic State militants connected with the killing of a Japanese agricultural scientist near Dhaka have fled and crossed into India.

The revelation by Home Minister Assaduzzaman Khan Kamal came as a Dhaka court indicted a suspected coordinator of the Bangladesh chapter of Islamic State and three other members of the militant group under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The militant group recently claimed its presence in South Asia, particularly in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has been denying an IS presence on its soil and has blamed violence on homegrown terrorists and opposition politicians. But the admission by the home minister and the indictment contradict that stance.

Kamal told the Indian English daily The Hindu on Tuesday that two IS militants were involved in the killing of the Japanese agriculturalist, Kunio Hoshi, 55, on October 3 in northern Bangladesh.

“We have alerted Indian authorities about their presence,” he said. “The border area around Bangladesh, especially certain regions in West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, have hideouts that are being used by these terrorists as bases."

Bangladeshi authorities have reportedly stepped up their efforts to combat IS and its affiliates in the country.

State detectives arrested a person in Dhaka in recent days for allegedly conducting propaganda supporting IS on the Internet using the pseudonym "Jihadi John."

“This detained person, Nahid Hossain, was using the IS logo in a Facebook page called Dawa al Islamia, introducing himself as so-called Jihadi John,” the joint commissioner of detective police, Munirul Islam Islam, told VOA’s Bangla service.

One suspect also was arrested for threatening some prominent citizens in Bangladesh in the name of IS, police said.

IS also has claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella, 50, on September 28 in Dhaka. IS also claims responsibility for a suicide attack on a Shi'ite procession in the capital last month that killed two people and wounded dozens.

The militant group claimed responsibility for injuring a Bangladesh-based Italian pastor, Piero Parolari, who was hurt in a gun attack last week in Bangladesh.

There also are fears in Dhaka that IS could be plotting to use the country and Bangladeshis recruited from abroad as a springboard to spread its network in parts of Asia.

The radical group claimed in the latest issue of its online magazine Dabiq that it now has a “regional leader in Bengal,” the Dhaka-based Bdnews24 said.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh disclosed threats from IS, calling it a challenging task for the government to counter.

Noor Zahid of VOA’s Extremism Watch Desk contributed to this report.