A Japanese national was shot to death by unidentified assailants in Rangpur yesterday, just five days after an Italian aid worker was murdered in the capital's diplomatic zone.
Hoshi Kunio, 66, was gunned down around 10:00am when he was going by a rickshaw to his grass farm at Alutari in the district's Kaunia upazila, police said.
Two men got down from a motorbike and shot him three times some 100 yards from the farm, said Abdur Razzaque, superintendent of Rangpur police.
“A third man was waiting on the bike parked by the road. They left the scene soon after the shooting,” he added.
Witnesses and locals rushed Kunio to Rangpur Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him dead.
He was hit in the chest, waist and neck and died on the way to the hospital, RMCH Director Md Barkatullah said.
The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the murder and warned of more such attacks, Reuters and Vice News report.
"There will continue to be a series of ongoing security operations against nationals of crusader coalition countries, they will not have safety or a livelihood in Muslim lands," both Reuters and Vice News quoted the terror group as tweeting.
Rezaul Karim, officer-in-charge of Kaunia Police Station, said he was not aware of the claim.
Police are questioning four people in connection with Kunio's murder, although none of them are suspects. Among them are Monnaf Hossain, the rickshaw puller, and Zakaria Bala, owner of the house where Kunio lived.
Following the murder, Japan and South Korea issued various safety alerts on the movement of their citizens in Bangladesh.
The killing comes when detectives in Dhaka are struggling to make any headway in the murder of Italian citizen Cesare Tavella in Gulshan on Monday evening. Police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with this killing in an area supposedly highly secured.
According to eyewitnesses, Tavella, 50, was shot from behind three times by two men while a third man waited on a motorbike ready to flee, as in the case of Kunio.
After Tavella's murder, several foreign nations, including the US, the UK, Australia and Canada had issued “travel alerts” and requested their citizens to restrict movements in Bangladesh.
The IS purportedly claimed responsibility for his killing as well, according a post uploaded on the website of US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Jihadist activities.
Police have yet to verify the claim.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said there were similarities in the two murders and claimed these were aimed at “creating instability” in the country.
“The killings are identical, attached to the same chord. In a similar fashion, three men came on motorbikes and shot the victims from behind [on both occasions],” he told reporters, after a programme at the capital's Moghbazar yesterday.
Intelligence agencies are working to track down the culprits, he said and insisted that there were “no IS activities” in the country.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said his force would strengthen security at workplaces and residences of foreign diplomats and nationals in Bangladesh.
The decision came at a meeting of top cops at the police headquarters yesterday.
Kunio had been living in Bangladesh for one year, renting a room at Zakaria's house at Munshipara in Rangpur city, said Zakaria's niece Akifa Aktar.
He last entered Bangladesh on August 28, police said, citing his passport record.
Akifa said Zakaria got acquainted with Kunio in Japan through his brother Mishan Bala. Zakaria returned to Bangladesh about a decade ago after staying there for some seven years. His brother still lives in Japan.
About six months ago, Kunio leased two acres of land from a man named Shah Alam and started cultivating grass for herbal medicine.
He lived a simple life and visited the farm about 10 kilometres from the city almost every day, she added.
Yesterday, he came out of home around 9:30am.
Witnesses, who were at a nearby shop during the shooting, said they heard gunshots and saw three men flee on a bike.
“The one driving the bike had a helmet on,” said Mostafa Hossain, who was at his grocery about 300 yards from the scene.
Kunio's body was sent to the RMCH morgue for an autopsy.
The Japanese embassy in Dhaka has confirmed his identity.
Takeshi Matsunaga, the Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister of Japanese Embassy in Dhaka, told The Daily Star at 12:40am today that the embassy had sent a team to Rangpur to identify the nationality of the victim.
“We condoned this despicable crime in the strongest possible term and we also urged the government of Bangladesh to promptly investigate this cowardly act of murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“We expressed our profound grief and would like to convey our sincere condolence to the bereaved family and friends,” Matsunaga said.