Bangladesh charges seven over killing of Italian aid worker

Workers carry the coffin carrying the body of Italian citizen Cesare Tavella, who was shot to death on September 28 by unidentified assailants, from the morgue at the Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on October 14, 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cesare Tavella was shot dead in the diplomatic quarter of the capital

Bangladeshi police have charged seven people, including an opposition politician, over the murder of an Italian aid worker.

Cesare Tavella, 50, was shot dead in the capital, Dhaka, in late September.

The attack was the first in a series of killings in Bangladesh claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

However, the government says IS does not have a presence in the country, and has blamed local militant groups and the opposition BNP party instead.

The opposition has denied any involvement, and says the government's accusations have hampered a credible investigation into the killings.

Attacks on foreigners in Bangladesh are rare, correspondents say, but Islamist violence has surged recently.

More than 40 people, including secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists and members of religious minorities, have been killed in attacks blamed on Islamist militants in Bangladesh since February 2013.

Five of those charged with the murder of Mr Tavella are in custody. Two, including a leading BNP politician, are still being sought by the authorities, BBC Bengali's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka reports.

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Who is being targeted?

Image copyright AFP

Secular bloggers, academics, gay rights activists, and members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus have all been killed, many of them hacked to death.

A university professor whose family said he was not an atheist was murdered in April, suggesting the list of those at risk had widened further.

Who exactly is behind the attacks remains unclear. Bangladesh has myriad extremist groups and there have been few convictions over the attacks.

Many of the attacks have been claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda linked groups.

However, the government has disputed these claims. Instead, government members have blamed opposition parties and local Islamist groups. Bangladesh's home minister has suggested an Israeli link to the killings, describing an "international conspiracy" against Bangladesh.

Both the opposition and the Israeli government have denied any involvement - and Israel described the accusations as "utter drivel".

Until the killings stop, the Bangladeshi government itself will face accusations of not doing enough to protect minorities in the Sunni-dominated nation.

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