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Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Killing of Italian Aid Worker in Bangladesh

The militant group issued a statement saying a "security detachment" tracked the aid worker through the Bangladeshi capital and shot him with silenced weapons.
Photo via EPA

The so-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the killing of an Italian aid worker in Bangladesh on Monday, in what appears to be the first attack by the militant group in the Asian nation, which has experienced a growing tide of extremist violence this year.

Cesare Tavella, an employee of a Dutch food security organization backed by Christian churches, was shot dead in the diplomatic zone of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka while he was on his evening walk, said Muntasirul Islam, spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

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According to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamist extremist activity online, IS issued a statement saying a "security detachment" tracked Tavella before shooting him with silenced weapons.

Bangladeshi authorities have not confirmed that IS was behind the attack, but a police spokesman said it appeared to be a "pre-planned murder." The Italian embassy also issued a statement that said IS involvement in the killing "is yet to be verified."

Monday's attack comes amid heightened violence involving Islamist extremists in Bangladesh this year. Four bloggers who published criticism of Islam, a religion practiced by more than 90 percent of Bangladeshis, have been hacked to death this year, including a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin. Police have arrested two suspected IS recruiters in Dhaka.

Related: Fourth Bangladeshi Blogger This Year Hacked to Death by Machete-Wielding Gang

In its statement claiming the death of the Italian aid worker, IS hinted at the possibility of more attacks in Bangladesh, saying citizens of what it called "the crusader coalition" were not safe, even in the homes of Muslims, according to a translation provided by SITE.

Westerners in Bangladesh have responded by taking precautions. Western embassies in the capital imposed restrictions on the movements of their diplomats on Tuesday, citing "reliable" information that more foreign interests will be targeted following Monday's shooting.

The US embassy instructed its staff to "shelter in place" on Tuesday morning, and "take whatever precautions they determine are prudent." The Italian embassy also instructed its citizens to avoid events and places normally frequented by foreigners, such as hotels, restaurants, or international schools.

The Australian cricket team, which was supposed to leave on Monday for Bangladesh, has delayed its departure after being warned by its government that there was a potential security risk from militants.

Reuters contributed to this report.