11/27/2015, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Religious intolerance growing in Bangladesh, but “it is not certain that ISIS is responsible”

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility in a number of incidents, including a threatening text message sent to a Catholic priest, a letter telling ten Baptist clergymen that their lives are at risk, and an attack by gunmen against worshippers at a Shia mosque. However, it is likely that “ISIS is trying to steal the show.” The Caliphate does not recognise the radical group that operates in Bangladesh. Factional divisions have led to a power struggle among extremist groups.

Dinajpur (AsiaNews) – Violence against the leaders of religious minorities and Shia Muslims is escalating. A Catholic priest received a threating text message; a letter was sent to ten Baptist ministers saying that their lives were in danger; and gunmen opened fire at a Shia mosque in Bogra district.

Speaking about the increasingly intolerant atmosphere, a Catholic source told AsiaNews that “it is not certain that ISIS is responsible for it. Nothing is known about who might be behind these attacks. In fact, it is probable that ISIS claims responsibility for attacks it does not carry out. What seems clear is that there is a power struggle among Islamic radical forces.”

Just a week after the attempted murder of Fr Piero Parolari, who was seriously wounded by thugs in Dinajpur, another Catholic priest has become the unwitting victim of death threats. Fr Karlus Toppo, from the Church of Christ the King in Nijpara, about 35 kilometres from Dinajpur, received a text message, ostensibly from the Islamic State (IS) group, threatening his life.

“Father Karlos, take Salam from IS,” said the text message. “You will be killed within December 20 following order from the organisation, whether you stay in Nijparha or Dinajpur. Eat whatever you want.”

After this, the priest filed a complaint with the local police, which deployed officers to protect his home.

“I live in fear,” Fr Toppo told AsiaNews. “I do not go out. I do not perform my daily pastoral service. I am escorted by police who explicitly told me to stay at home."

The priest is not the only one to have received threats. Last week, another 12 Catholic and Protestant clergymen received text messages promising them a "just death".

Yesterday, Islamic fundamentalists also sent a letter to Rev Barnabas Hemrom, head of the Baptist Church in Rangpur, threatening the lives of ten Baptist pastors, his included.

The letter read, “This time our plan is to kill one by one all those who are preaching Christianity in Bangladesh.” Thus, “Our country will be run only under Muslim laws”.

The sender’s name on the envelope was Atul Roy, son of Ganesh Roy, from the village of Uttarparha, in the administrative region of Dinajpur Sadar.

Also yesterday, gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a Shia mosque in Bogra district. One person was killed and three wounded. Today the Caliphate claimed responsible for the attack.

"It is very likely that ISIS is not responsible for the attack,” the Catholic source said. “We believe that local extremists could be involved." For the source, factionalism among radical Islamist groups is the most significant factor.

"ISIS has condemned Jammat-e-Islami, the local fundamentalist group as too nice, not truly radical,” the source said. “However, everyone knows that its members are extremists.”

"Tensions are high. The army has been deployed on the country’s northern border to search” for the attackers.

Putting aside the ongoing violence against foreigners and religious minorities, the danger is that "ISIS is trying to steal the show. It does not recognise Jamaat-e-Islami as a party, and does not rely on local members. Yet, the Caliphate claims all violent acts committed in the country. "

Such an attitude is indicative of a certain opportunism, the source noted. "The Caliphate has influence. Due to its brand name, it can claim all acts of violence not committed by its members, all this to increase its prestige. "

(Sumon Corraya contributed to this article)

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