The Islamic State terrorist group says it is responsible for an attack on a Shi’ite Muslim religious center in northern Bangladesh on Thursday.
One person was killed and three were injured in the attack. Gunmen shot people praying at the mosque in Bogra, which is about 200 kilometers northwest of Dhaka.
Arifure Rahman Mondal is a police official in Bogra. He spoke to VOA about the attack by telephone.
He said the gunmen entered the mosque and began shooting worshippers. He says four people were shot and taken to the hospital. The muezzin, or the person who calls Muslims to prayers, died at the hospital.
Mondal told VOA “we have already launched a country-wide operation to hunt out the assailants."
The muezzin was 70-year-old Moazzem Hossain. Television stations in the area reported the three injured men were seriously wounded.
Mohammed Ukil is a family member of the muezzin. He said the attackers appeared to be worshippers. He said when the worshippers bowed in prayer, the attackers shot their weapons from the back of the mosque. Then they ran away, he says.
This is the second attack on the small Shi’ite community. Last month, a bomb exploded at a gathering there of Shi’ite Muslims. Two people were killed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina strongly criticized the attackers: “A good Muslim can never resort to terrorism. The gunmen who attacked the worshipers at the mosque cannot be called Muslim. In the name of religion these perverts are killing people, indulging in terrorism and bringing (a) bad name to Islam.”
Officials in Bangladesh are worried about an increase in the number of militant Islamists in the country.
Between February and October, four secular, or non-religious, writers and one publisher were killed in Bangladesh. They publish their opinions on the Internet. Police say they were murdered by Ansarullah Bangla Team, a strict Islamist group.
In recent weeks, gunmen also killed two foreigners -- an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farming expert -- in separate attacks. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for those attacks and for the bomb attack on the Shi’ite gathering.
Officials say Islamic State terrorists have claimed responsibility for recent attacks in the country. But those officials blame the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, for the attacks.
On Thursday, police said the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh group carried out the attack on the Shi’ite religious gathering last month. The Islamist group has been banned.
Police also said they shot and killed the group’s leader during a raid on Wednesday. They killed another commander during the raid, as well. They also said they arrested five members of the group suspected of being involved in the bombing.
About 96 percent of the 149 million Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunni. The rest are Shi’ites. Imran H. Sarker is an activist in Dhaka. He says the two groups have lived close to one another for a long time and have not fought.
He told VOA many people were surprised when the bomb attack happened because many Sunni Muslims were at the gathering.
The attack on the mosque on Thursday worries Shi’ite Muslims in neighboring India.
Bilal Hussain is a Shi’ite community leader in New Delhi. He is part of a group based in India that works to reduce tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. He told VOA he was shocked by the attacks. He says they appear to be new attempts to divide Muslims.
He said “IS is trying to set the Sunnis in Bangladesh against the Shias. The group is an enemy of Islam.”
I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Correspondent Shaikh Azizur Rahman reported this story from Bangladesh. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it into VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck edited this story.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.
Words In the News
mosque – n. where religious services for Muslims are held
worshipper – n. a person who shows respect, love or adoration for something or someone, usually a god
muezzin – n. a man who calls Muslims to prayer from a mosque
assailant – n. a person who attacks another person
bow – v. to turn your body or head toward the ground
resort to – phrasal verb to do (something) especially because no other choices are possible
in the name of – expression acting on behalf of a belief or other person
pervert – n. a person whose behavior is not normal or acceptable
indulge in – phrasal verb to become involved in, such as a treat
bad name – expression to be known for bad behavior or actions
secular – adj. not religious