DHAKA (Reuters) - An Italian doctor working as a missionary was shot and wounded in the neck in an attack by three assailants in northern Bangladesh on Wednesday, police and a medic said, the latest assault on foreigners in the country.
The attack on the doctor, identified by Italian newspapers as Piero Parolari, follows the murder of another Italian and a Japanese citizen in attacks in Bangladesh claimed by Islamic State that took place in late September and early October.
The latest incident occurred in Dinajpur district, around 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, where Parolari has been carrying out missionary work and medical services among the poor for the last 10 years.
Police had earlier said he had been stabbed.
Parolari was initially moved to a hospital in Dinajpur town, according to Abdul Khaleque, officer in charge of Dinajpur Sadar police station. He was later taken to a military hospital in Dhaka, and doctors said his condition was stable.
Dharani Kanto, an auto rickshaw driver, told Reuters that he had taken Parolari to hospital in Dinajpur.
“No one was attending to him, so with the help of two other people I rushed him to the hospital,” Kanto said.
The attackers fled on a motorcycle, and fired shots to frighten off people chasing them, a senior police official said.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh has suffered a rising tide of Islamist violence over the past year. Four online critics of religious militancy have been hacked to death, among them a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh origin.
In late September, an Italian aid worker was shot in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter by gunmen on a motorcycle. A few days later a Japanese man was shot.
Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Dhaka last month that killed two people and wounded dozens.
The government has rejected the Islamic State claims, instead blaming the rising violence on political opponents.
Humayun Kabir, a Deputy Inspector General of police for the northern region, told Reuters that security in the area had been tightened.
He linked the attack on the Italian missionary to death sentences handed down to the leaders of two opposition parties who have been found guilty of committing war crimes during the 1971 war of independence.
“The motive of the attack was to create a destructive and unstable situation in the country to prevent (the) ongoing trial of war criminals,” Kabir said.
Mahbubur Rahman, secretary general of the Dinajpur district branch of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, has been detained for questioning, police said.
A top Jamaat leader was one of two opposition figures whose appeals against death sentences in the war crimes trial were rejected by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
A further 10 people were detained in addition to Rahman.
Hamidur Rahman Azad, a senior Jamaat leader, said in a statement that its leadership had been targeted indiscriminately by law enforcement agencies, and that the movement was peaceful.
Asaduzzaman Ripon, spokesman for the largest opposition group, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told reporters that the government should only act on “specific” evidence.
“It is nothing but harassment of opposition activists,” Ripon said.
Reporting By Serajul Quadir and additional reporting by Hasibur Rahman Bilu from Dinajpur; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie and Mike Collett-White