Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Sunday dismissed claims that the Islamic State was behind the fatal shootings of two foreign citizens last week, instead suggesting that the killings may have been the work of homegrown militants aligned with her political opponents in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or B.N.P.
“I can surely say that I.S. or any such type of organization or their activities have not sprouted in Bangladesh yet,” Ms. Hasina told reporters who visited her home for a briefing on Sunday, according to an account by the state-owned news service.
Within the space of five days last week, an Italian aid worker and a Japanese man were shot dead, in each case by unidentified gunmen who raced away from the scene on a motorbike. Hours after each killing, a social media account believed to be used by the Islamic State posted a statement claiming responsibility for killing men they described as “crusaders,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamic websites. The claim could not be independently confirmed.
However, the Bangladeshi authorities expressed skepticism that the Islamic State was involved. The country’s home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the claim was “absolutely rubbish.”
“There is no I.S. in the country, no way,” he said. “Why would I.S. do this here? These are incidents for creating instability in the country.”
Ms. Hasina said militants might be carrying out attacks in retaliation for ongoing war crimes trials in which leaders of the B.N.P. and its ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami, have faced charges over actions during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. She said leaders of the B.N.P. hoped to use violence to “overshadow Bangladesh’s achievements,” The Press Trust of India reported.
“We will take action and track down the culprits,” she said. “But if we get carried away by these murders and overlook our achievements, the B.N.P.-Jamaat conspiracy will be successful.”
Attacks on foreigners are a new development in Bangladesh, but targeted assassinations have been occurring with grim regularity. Since the beginning of the year, militant cells have carried out four nearly identical killings of Bangladeshi secular activists who posted writings that were critical of Islam on social media.
This spring, the leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent published a video in which he took responsibility for several of those killings.
Foreign intelligence services have received warnings recently of a heightened threat of terrorist attacks in Bangladesh. Even before the first killing — of the Italian aid worker, Cesare Tavella, who was shot while jogging in the capital, Dhaka — Britain had warned its officials to “limit attendance at events where Westerners may gather.”
On Thursday, the Australian cricket team canceled a planned series of matches in Bangladesh. The team’s chief executive said the decision had been made after consultations with Australian government agencies and the team’s security advisers.