Italian priest shot in Bangladesh by gunmen

Attack on priest riding bicycle in northern city of Dinajpur is latest targeting foreigners blamed on Islamic militants


Troops guard the Bangabandhu national stadium before a World Cup qualification match, in Dhaka on Tuesday. Security has been tightened in the city since the Paris attacks. Photograph: Stanley Chou/Getty Images

An Italian priest is fighting for his life in northern Bangladesh after being shot and seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen.

The attack today is the latest in a series targeting foreigners in the country, which have been blamed on Islamic militant groups including Islamic State.

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.

It was unclear who was responsible. The attack comes after an Italian aid worker was shot dead in September and a Japanese farmer was killed days later in Dhaka, the capital. Isis claimed responsibility for both attacks.
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The Bangladesh government has repeatedly denied the group was behind the attacks, saying there is “no presence of [Isis] militancy” in the Muslim-majority country and blaming local opposition political parties.

Western intelligence services and governments, however, fear Isis and other international extremist organisations are gaining a foothold in the poor, chaotic nation.

Bangladesh is also reeling from a series of murders of secular bloggers and a publisher of secular books, attacks claimed by a local banned hardline Islamic militant group thought to be linked to al-Qaida.

However, there has been several violent disputes between Christians and Muslims in recent months in the area where the shooting occurred, and it is possible that the attackers had purely local motivations. Many were linked to land disputes.

Cities across south Asia are on high alert after the events in Paris last week, where Isis terrorists killed more 129 people. The methods used by the gunmen in Dinajpur resembled the group’s previous attacks against foreigners.

“It was a planned attack,” said Ruhul Amin, chief of Dinajpur police. “It was a continuation of the attacks being perpetrated across the country.”

Tarun Kanti Halder, director of the hospital treating the priest said his condition was stable but it could deteriorate. “Piero has nasal fractures which could lead to internal bleeding. His eyelid has also been badly bruised,” Halder said. A bullet is believed to have slipped past his head but it did not penetrate.

The priest, who is in his 60s, 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 city.

Sen said Piero had been riding a bicycle at about 8am when three attackers shot him at close range.

Source: The Guardian