IS claims killing of Japanese in Bangladesh

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the shooting death of a Japanese national on Saturday in Bangladesh — the second foreigner to be slain there in less than a week — and promised more attacks.

The militant group issued a statement on Twitter saying it was behind the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi networks. The Islamic State group had earlier claimed responsibility for the murder of an Italian citizen shot dead in Bangladesh on Tuesday. Both accounts could not be independently confirmed.

Kunio Hoshi, believed to be in his 60s, was gunned down by masked attackers on a motorcycle while en route to an agricultural project he was working on in the northern district of Rangpur, local media reported. He was reportedly shot in the head, chest and leg and died on the way to the hospital.

Later Saturday, the Islamic State group warned of further attacks.

“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,” the group tweeted.

On Saturday, the Japanese Embassy in Bangladesh issued a warning on its website urging citizens there to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary trips outside.

Hoshi came to Bangladesh from Nepal on Aug. 28 and had been staying with a friend in Munshipara, in the Rangpur district, Kyodo News reported. He had previously visited the country in February, when he became involved with an agricultural project for growing and developing Napier grass on leased land.

The killing of Hoshi came just days after Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella was shot dead in similar fashion in the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

The Bangladesh government sought to allay fears after the shootings, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dismissing the IS links

“Someone will post something online . . . why should we accept that unless we prove that? We cannot accept that,” Hasina told reporters Sunday.

Hoshi’s murder came less than a month after Tokyo ordered all diplomatic offices abroad to beef up security after the IS called on supporters to attack Japanese missions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the latest edition of Dabiq, its English-language Internet magazine.

Earlier this year, the extremist group killed two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa, 42, and Kenji Goto, 47.

The magazine said the group executed the two to “humiliate the arrogance of this Japanese government,” and accused Japan of having been a player in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

If Hoshi’s death is confirmed, the growing tally could have implications for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration’s push to give Japan a more robust role in global security issues.

“If it is indeed confirmed that this was an IS-inspired or related killing, it surely will put more pressure on Tokyo to take a more active role in ramping up counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and other more experienced states such as those in the Five Eyes network,” said J. Berkshire Miller, fellow for the East Asia program at the New York-based EastWest Institute.

The Five Eyes refers to an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Still, Miller said, do not expect to see Self-Defense Forces troops shipping out for Iraq or Syria any time soon.

“IS affiliates and inspired jihadi extremists groups aligned with IS are popping out all around the globe — but there needs to be a distinction between combating IS in Syria and Iraq versus the more broader fight against violent Islamic extremism,” Miller said. “I don’t see the Abe administration trying to spin the IS-related deaths into a push for Japan to become heavily engaged in Syria and Iraq.

Attacks on foreigners in Muslim-majority Bangladesh are rare, but it has seen a surge in violence by hard-line Islamic groups recently, including the killings of four secular bloggers who had criticized extremists and religious fundamentalism.