DHAKA, Bangladesh — Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Shiite mosque in northern Bangladesh on Thursday evening, killing one man and injuring three others during evening prayer, in an attack that echoes last month’s bombing of a Shiite procession.
Shiites are a tiny minority in Bangladesh, whose population of about 160 million is almost entirely Sunni.
In a claim released via Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State, the group took responsibility for the attack, saying “soldiers of the caliphate” had opened fire on worshipers with machine guns.
“With permission from Allah, operations will continue on the Rafidha Iranian interests in Bangladesh,” the statement said, using a term for Shiite Muslims, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups.
The mosque’s muezzin, Moazzem Hossain, was shot in the head and died later in a hospital. Three other men, including the mosque’s 35-year-old imam, were wounded in the attack and were hospitalized, said Ahsan Habib, the officer in charge at Shibganj police station in Bogra district, about 120 miles north of the Bangladeshi capital.
“I have never heard, and never received any information, that there was rivalry or conflict between the Shiite community and anyone else,” Mr. Habib said. “This attack just astonished me.”
A Shiite leader in the region said the assailants brought a lock with them and used it to lock the compound’s gate, then entered the mosque itself and opened fire.
“Frankly speaking, we never suspected that the Shia community in Shibganj would be attacked,” said the leader, Mozaffor Hossen, 35, secretary general of the Bangladesh Imamia Welfare Foundation. He said he had prayed in the same mosque on Wednesday.
Social media accounts linked to the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that began in September, which, along with the assault on the procession, included the fatal shootings of two foreigners living in Bangladesh, a knife attack at a police checkpoint andthe shooting of a Roman Catholic missionary this month.
The Islamic State’s magazine, Dabiq, this month featured an article detailing its activities in Bengal, a territory that existed under British rule and included parts of Bangladesh and India.
The publication said fighters loyal to Islamic State had “unified their ranks, nominated a regional leader, gathered behind him, dissolved their former factions, performed the necessary military preparations, and hastened to answer the order from the Islamic State leadership, by targeting the crusaders and their allies wherever they may be found.”
The Bangladeshi authorities have linked the attacks to domestic groups affiliated with opposition parties, and have reacted skeptically to the jihadist claims.
The country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has asserted that Bangladeshis were under pressure from foreign governments to acknowledge the Islamic State’s presence.
Source:The New York Times