Police in Bangladesh question 4 in killing of Japanese man

DHAKA: Police said they were questioning four people Monday in connection with the second killing of a foreigner in Bangladesh last week — a Japanese agricultural worker described by his neighbors as a friendly farmer who occasionally joined gatherings at their village mosque.

Kunio Hoshi was shot to death by unidentified assailants in northern Bangladesh on Saturday. The government has rejected a statement by the Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the attack.

"We are questioning four people including the rickshaw puller who was carrying him when he was killed. They are not suspects. We are just questioning them for details," Rezaul Karim, the local police chief at Kawnia in Rangpur district, where the attack took place, said in a phone interview.

Police were also interviewing Hoshi's landlord, who had helped the Japanese man lease over two acres of land, Karim said. He gave no other details about the investigation.

Japan's top government spokesman also expressed outrage Monday over the killing.

"Such a dastardly act should never be repeated. I feel outraged by such an act," Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, told reporters in Tokyo on Monday. He extended condolences to Hoshi's family, and said the Japanese government was seeking a full investigation into the case.

Local residents said Hoshi had been visiting Rangpur regularly over the last three or four years.

According to local representative Ashraful Islam, Hoshi began looking for land where he would cultivate grass for cattle feed a few months ago. He said Hoshi was researching high yielding varieties of cattle feed.

"He was friendly with kids and other people in the area," he said. "He was quiet and simple."

Islam said that while it was not clear whether Hoshi had converted, he often joined worshippers at the local mosque, especially on Fridays.

"He was very friendly with young people there. He could speak a bit of Bangla," he said. "Local people welcomed him to their area very warmly."

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that Hoshi, a 66-year-old farmer from Japan's northern prefecture of Iwate, had operated agricultural projects in that region and near Tokyo.

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.

The Islamic State group issued a statement claiming responsibility for Saturday's 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 Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella last week in Bangladesh's capital.

Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan refuted those claims. The government has blamed the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its key ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, for the attacks, accusing the groups of trying to destabilize the country. A spokesman for the BNP denied the charges.