Italian Priest Latest Victim of Violence in Bangladesh

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
151118-BD-priestshot-620 Italian Priest Piero Parolari is brought into a hospital after being shot in Dinajpur, Bangladesh, Nov. 18, 2015.

An Italian priest was shot and wounded in northern Bangladesh on Wednesday, the third foreigner and second Italian expatriate to be attacked by gunmen on motorbikes since late September.

Father Piero Parolari, who is based at the Suihari Catholic Mission in Dinajpur, was shot by three men on a motorcycle as he rode his bicycle in the morning to St. Vincent Hospital in the town, where he works as a physician, police said.

The shooting occurred a few hours before Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld death sentences for two opposition party officials, who had been convicted of crimes against humanity committed during the war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

“Father Parolari is known in Dinajpur. People considered him their friend,” local businessman Hafezul Islam Jemy told BenarNews.

“He is a harmless person. This is a surprise that he has been targeted,” Jemy added.

The shooting followed the murders of two other foreigners, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese farmer Kunio Hoshi, who were gunned down in Dhaka and the northern city of Rangpur on Sept. 28 and Oct. 3, respectively.

Parolari was also the second Christian cleric to be attacked in Bangladesh since early last month. On Oct. 5, three men in Pabna district entered the house of pastor Luke Sarker, who survived a knife attack. Four members of the banned outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have since been arrested and charged in connection with that attack.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed the two killings of the foreigners. At press time, however, there were no reports of any militant group claiming responsibility for the attack on Parolari. Bangladeshi officials have rejected reports that IS was behind those killings, as well as the bombing of a Shiite religious procession last month that killed two people.

All three attacks, and recent attacks on secular bloggers and publishers, were aimed at “destabilizing the country” ahead of the imminent executions of the two condemned senior opposition figures, Bangladeshi officials have said.

“All the violence is aimed at disrupting the trial of the war criminals,” said Imran H. Sarker, spokesman of the Gonojagoron Moncho (Mass Awakening Platform), a grassroots movement born two years ago to demand the executions of convicted criminals from the 1971 war.

Shot from behind

In Wednesday’s attack, Parolari was shot from behind as he cycled to St. Vincent.

The priest-doctor was heading to work as he did every morning, witness Mohammad Malek told BenarNews.

“Suddenly, we heard some sound and saw him on the ground. The people rushed to the spot and took him to the hospital,” Malek said.

“He [Parolari] sustained gun shots on his neck and a face injury, possibly caused by his fall,” Dr. Zillur Rahman, the on-duty physician at the Dinajpur Medical College, told BenarNews.

The injured priest was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Dhaka for further treatment. His condition was unknown at press time.

The priest has lived in Dinajpur town for the past 12 years, district Police Superintendent Ruhul Amin told reporters.

“We have intensified security to arrest the culprits,” Amin said.

Three charged in blogger’s killing

Also on Wednesday, Bangladeshi media reported that three men were arrested and charged in connection with the Aug. 7 murder of secular blogger Niladri Chottopaddhya. News reports identified the suspects as Mufti Maulana Abdul Gaffar, Mortoza Faisal Sabbir and Tarequl Islam.

A week after the murder, police charged Saad al Nahin and Masud Rana for their alleged roles in the blogger’s killing. Chottopaddhya was the fourth secular blogger slain this year alone in attacks carried out by suspected Islamist militants.

On Oct. 31, publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan was hacked to death in one of two attacks in Dhaka that day, which targeted publishers, a writer and another blogger.


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