Bangladesh rejects IS claim of killing Japanese man

DHAKA: For the second time in a week, Bangladesh's government on Sunday rejected a claim by the Islamic State group that it was responsible for gunning down a foreigner in the South Asian country.

After assailants shot and killed Japanese citizen Kunio Hoshi in northern Bangladesh on Saturday, the Islamic State group issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi postings online. The report could not be independently confirmed. The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the killing of an Italian aid worker last week in Bangladesh's capital.

"Oh, it's absolutely rubbish, there is no IS in the country, no way," Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told The Associated Press on Sunday. "Why would IS do this here? These are incidents for creating instability in the country."

"The claims are fishy and we are examining," he said.

Khan's view was echoed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who also dismissed the Islamic State's claims.

"Someone will post something online ... why should we accept that unless we prove that? We cannot accept that," she told reporters.

Following the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the Sept. 28 killing of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella, who was gunned down by motorbike-riding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh's government said there was no evidence that the extremist group was involved and called it an "isolated incident."

Hasina on Sunday blamed the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its key ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, for the attacks, accusing the two groups of trying to destabilize the country.

She said the two killings were similar and that the same people were likely behind both of them.

"Our intelligence is working on that," Hasina said, adding that her administration would "definitely" capture and try those behind the attacks.

However, a spokesman for the BNP refuted the prime minister's charge, saying Hasina's statements were expected and regrettable.

"The incidents of the murders are under investigation," said party spokesman Asaduzzman Ripon. "Such comments by the prime minister at this stage may influence the investigation process."

Saturday's attack took place in Mahiganj village in Rangpur district. Local residents reported that two assailants shot three times at Hoshi, said Rezaul Karim, a police official. A third man waited for the pair on a motorbike, and the three then fled together on the bike.

Police have filed a murder case, accusing three unnamed people in the shooting, Karim said Sunday.

Karim said Hoshi had started a grass farm in Rangpur, which is about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Dhaka. Japanese media reported that Hoshi was 66.

An official from the Japanese foreign ministry's anti-terrorism department said in Tokyo that in light of the Islamic State group's claim of responsibility, Japanese officials were investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing ministry rules.

The ministry issued a statement urging Japanese to use caution overseas, particularly in Bangladesh and other predominantly Muslim nations, "in order not to be embroiled in kidnappings, threats, terrorist attacks and other unanticipated events."

Bangladesh has been struggling in recent months with a rise in violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups, banning several that have been blamed for killing four bloggers this year.