Pastor escapes knife attack at his home – 4 quizzed on Japanese man murder

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This photo taken on Oct 5, shows Mohammad Javed (left), an explosives expert with the Islamist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), being presented to the media following his arrest in Chittagong. (AFP)
This photo taken on Oct 5, shows Mohammad Javed (left), an explosives expert with the Islamist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), being presented to the media following his arrest in Chittagong. (AFP)

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 6, (Agencies): 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.

The leader of the military wing of a banned Islamist militant group in Bangladesh was killed when a grenade exploded while he was in police custody early on Tuesday, hours after he was arrested in possession of weapons, police said. Mohammad Javed, the 26-yearold chief of the military wing of Jamaat-ul Mujahideen, was arrested on Monday night along with four other members of the group in the port city of Chittagong. Senior police official Babul Akter said Javed was killed while he was helping police recover more weapons in Chittagong. “The grenade exploded when the team was trying to recover it from a drain,” Akter said.

Two policemen suffered minor wounds, he added. Bangladesh has been convulsed by rising Islamist violence over the past year in which four online critics of religious militancy were hacked to death, a US citizen among them. Attacks on foreigners are rare in Bangladesh. The South Asian nation is on alert after two foreigners were shot dead last week in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, although police said there was no evidence the group was behind the attacks. Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen fighters have been sought since the group detonated nearly 500 bombs across Bangladesh on a single day in 2005. Later attacks on several courts killed 25 people and wounded hundreds. Police said nine hand grenades, 120 rounds of ammunition, pistols, knives and a large quantity of bomb-making materials were seized in Monday’s raid.

A Bangladeshi pastor has survived an attempt on his life by three men who came to his home pretending to want to learn about Christianity, police and the victim said Tuesday. The incident follows the fatal attacks on two foreigners last week in Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country that is grappling with violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups. On Monday, 52-year-old pastor Luke Sarker suffered minor injuries when three men aged 25-30 attacked him with a knife at his home in the northwestern district of Pabna, said the area’s senior police official, Siddikur Rahman. Sarker, the pastor of Faith Bible Church, said by telephone that the men had phoned him about two weeks ago saying they wanted to visit him to learn about Christianity.

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