Dhaka, Sep 30: Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today downplayed a suspected Islamic State link to the murder of an Italian aid worker here despite the terror group reportedly claiming responsibility for the killing.
"A message from Chicago claimed link of IS with the killing. But anybody from Bangladesh didn't claim it so far. Our intelligence has no information like that," said Hasina at a press briefing in New York where she is attending the UN General Assembly session.
The premier, however, acknowledged a possible link to "international terrorism" saying certain elements in Bangladesh want to destabilise the country and "have connection with international terrorism".
"There is certainly a strong force behind the killing. So they want to create a situation," she said.
"Certainly the 1971 war criminals (who are being tried) and killers of Bangabandhu (Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) would try to create an unstable situation in the country as they are ceaselessly trying to do this," she said.
Assassins shot 50-year-old Italian Cesare Tavella thrice two days ago at uptown Gulshan area, where most foreign diplomatic missions are housed, while he was jogging.
Tavella was working for Netherlands-based ICCO Cooperation as manager of its Profitable Opportunities for Food Security (PROOFS) project since May this year.
Hours after the incident, Chicago-based SITE Intelligence Group, a portal that monitors Islamist threats, ran a report saying the IS had carried out the murder.
The portal carried a message written in Arabic in which the IS claimed responsibility for the attack. Security officials said if the claim turned true, this is the first attack in Bangladesh by the radical Sunni Islamist militant group which seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq.
Hasina's comments came as home minister Asaduzzaman Khan earlier today said that the SITE report "is not clear".
"This is a claim from an American site, but the statement is not clear. We are examining the whole thing and before that we can't say that the IS did it," Khan said.
Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh, Mario Palma, also called on Khan.
Asked for comments on IS presence in Bangladesh, Khan said those who were suspected of recruiting for the extremist group were already being arrested but police said so far no one has been nabbed for Tavella's murder.
Meanwhile, security vigil has been intensified in the diplomatic enclave.