Bangladesh accuses opposition official of Italian’s murder
A senior Bangladeshi minister accused a main opposition party official Wednesday of ordering an Italian aid worker’s murder as part of a plot to destabilize the government. Police are hunting for Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) official M.A. Quayum for allegedly orchestrating the deadly shooting of Cesare Tavella in the capital late last month.
Four people have been arrested over the attack, with police on Monday saying three of them admitted carrying out the Sept. 28 killing on the orders of a so-called “big brother”. “Quayum is the big brother,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters on Wednesday.
Quayum, who is believed to have fled the country, is a mid-ranking BNP official and a former Dhaka councilor. Kamal said police have “conclusive evidence” Quayum ordered the killing as part of a “conspiracy” to trigger anarchy and pile pressure on the government, although he did not elaborate.
The killing near Dhaka’s diplomatic zone was the first of a series of attacks to be claimed by Daesh (so-called IS) and was followed days later by the gunning down of a Japanese farmer in northern Bangladesh. A weekend bombing of the capital’s main Shiite shrine, which killed one person and wounded dozens more, has further heightened the fears of minorities living in the mainly Muslim but officially secular nation.
Although that attack was also claimed by Daesh, the government responded by denying that the extremist group was active in Bangladesh. And instead it rounded up dozens of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s opponents. BNP secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir rejected the home minister’s accusation, saying that it was “unacceptable and not believable”.
“We’ve said clearly that the government should conduct proper investigations into these murders. Instead, they are using these to suppress a democratic opposition,” he told AFP. The government has consistently blamed the BNP and its main Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami for unrest which has plagued Bangladesh since their refusal to take part in a January 2014 general election.
After the attack on the Shiite shrine, a former BNP lawmaker and several senior BNP and Jamaat officials were detained. Police said the arrests were related to previous unrest and not linked to Saturday’s blast. One of the four arrested over the aid worker’s killing, Tamjid Ahmed Rubel, has told his family that he was forced into making a confession.
“When I went to visit him in the jail Tuesday, he told me he didn’t do it but he was coerced by police to admit the false allegations,” Rubel’s uncle, Mainuddin Ahmed Tawhid, told AFP.
“We don’t understand what is happening,” Tawhid said, adding that his nephew disappeared two weeks ago. US-based extremist monitoring group SITE defended its publication of all three Daesh claims after Bangladesh police cast doubt on their authenticity. “The claims have been authenticated and found credible by SITE’s rigorous verification process,” the group said in a statement.