DHAKA (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants stabbed to death a Hindu priest at a temple in Bangladesh on Sunday, and shot and wounded a devotee who went to his aid.
Police said the attack was perpetrated by a local militant group, while Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement issued via social media.
Bangladesh has experienced a wave of militant violence in recent months, including a series of bomb attacks on mosques and Hindu temples.
Some of the attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, which has said it is behind the killings in Bangladesh of a Japanese citizen, an Italian aid worker and a policeman.
In Sunday’s attack, five or six attackers cut the throat of the priest, Jogeshwar Roy, 55, as he was organizing prayers at the Deviganj temple near Panchagar, 494 km (308 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, police said.
“We suspect that they might be members of the banned Islamist militant group Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB),” police official Humayun Kabir told Reuters.
Islamic State issued its statement through the Telegram messaging app and on Twitter.
“In a security operation facilitated by the almighty God, soldiers of the Caliphate liquidated the priest Jogeshwar Roy, the founder and the head of the Deviganj temple that belongs to the infidel Hindus,” the ISIS statement read in Arabic.
“One of his companions was hurt after being targeted with light weapons in the area of Panchagar in Northern Bangladesh, and the Mujahdeen returned to their positions unharmed, and all praise be to God.”
The devotee who tried to stop the priest’s attackers was shot in the leg before the group fled, police official Kabir said. Police have not yet made any arrests.
The government denies that Islamic State has a presence in the country of 160 million people. Police have blamed earlier attacks on home-grown Islamist militants.
Reporting by Serajul Quadir and Hadibur Rahman Bilu from Panchagar; Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo and Douglas Busvine in New Delhi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Bolton