DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A Bangladeshi pastor survived an attempt on his life by three men who came to his home pretending to want to learn about Christianity, police and the victim said Tuesday.
The attempt follows two killings of foreigners last week in the predominantly Muslim country grappling with violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups.
The Islamic State group claimed it had carried out last week's attacks on a Japanese agricultural worker and an Italian aid worker. The IS claim has been rejected by Bangladesh's government, which accused the opposition of trying to destabilize the country.
On Monday, the Rev. Luke Sarker, 52, suffered minor injuries when three men attacked him with a knife at his home in the northwestern district of Pabna, police official Siddikur Rahman said.
Sarker, the pastor of Faith Bible Church, said the men had phoned him about two weeks ago saying they wanted to visit him to learn about Christianity.
After they arrived at his home on Monday, the men suddenly attacked him with a knife and tried to slit his throat, Sarker said by telephone. But as he shouted, his wife came to his rescue and the men fled. Police later recovered a motorbike from outside his home.
On Tuesday, police arrested a member of the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami political party, related to the attack on the pastor. Obaidul Islam was detained in a raid at his home at Ishwardi in Pabna, local police official Biman Kumar said.
"We are questioning him," Kumar said.
Meanwhile, police said they have arrested two suspects in Saturday's attack on Japanese agricultural worker Kunio Hoshi in northern Bangladesh.
Local businessman Humayun Kabir Hira and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party activist Rashedunnabi Khan Biplob were produced before a magistrate and arrested, said local police Chief Rezaul Karim.
Biplob, Hira and three others were detained soon after the killing but were not initially named as suspects. The others are still being questioned but so far are not considered suspects, Karim said.
Hira owned a fishery near the farm where Hoshi was producing high-yielding grass as cattle feed and had helped the Japanese man lease the land he was farming, Karim said.
The Islamic State group issued a statement claiming responsibility for that attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi postings online. The report could not be independently confirmed. The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the Sept. 28 killing of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.
Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali brushed aside the Islamic State allegations while briefing foreign diplomats Tuesday.
"We don't have any proof (about IS claim). we don't have any credible information. The U.S. is also working to verify the claim," the United News of Bangladesh agency quoted the minister as saying.
Robert Gibson, British high commissioner to Dhaka, said that they discussed the overall situation.
He said the government assured them of a fair investigation.
"We're assured by the government that no stone will be left unturned," the agency quoted Gibson as saying.
The government has blamed the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its key ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, for the attacks, accusing the groups of trying to destabilize the country. The BNP denied the allegations.
Bangladesh has been struggling in recent months with a rise in violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups, banning several that have been blamed for killing four secular bloggers this year.