Cesare Tavella, a 50-year-old Italian aid worker, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, on Monday evening. According to Reuters, Cesare was approached by two armed gunmen on a motorcycle and shot at close range while he was jogging. While it was initially unclear who the perpetrators of the attack were, the SITE Intelligence Group later revealed that a statement was issued by ISIS claiming that they were behind the attack. The statement claimed that a security detachment of the ISIS had tracked Mr. Tavella through the streets of Dhaka before gunning him down using “silenced weapons.”
The brutal killing of Cesare Tavella has sent shockwaves throughout Bangladesh, which did not have the presence of ISIS-sponsored militants until now, the New York Times reports. The killing also happened to be in the relatively safe diplomatic enclave of the city, which has considerable security forces. Cesare Tavella was shot at least three times by the gunmen at around 6:15 p.m. local time. They had apparently parked their bike by the side of the road and ambushed him as he approached them. Following the attack, the duo made their escape using the same motorcycle. Police officials have started an investigation and now believe it was a well-planned attack. They are however yet to ascertain the motive behind the killing.
“We think it was a pre planned killing,” said Mohammad Abdul Ahad, a police official from Dhaka who is investigating the case.
If confirmed to be an attack by the ISIS, this would be the first instance of an ISIS-backed attack in Bangladesh, which is already reeling under the influence of Islamic fundamentalist forces. The attacks started off with the killing of blogger Avijit Ray, who was hacked to death in public. His killing was followed by the murder of three other bloggers, all of whom were critical towards fundamental Islam. These included secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das, who was killed by masked men in May. In March, another blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death in Dhaka.
As for this latest case of murder, police officials are still looking for the perpetrators. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon. While the ISIS has already claimed credit for this attack, local police officials say they still need further evidence to confirm this claim.
“We have seen news about this claim, but we will have to examine how authentic this claim is,” said Muntashirul Islam, deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Mr. Cesare Tavella was staying in Bangladesh since May 2015 and was involved with ICCO Cooperation, a non-governmental Dutch organization that aims to help the poor in South Asia. He was working as a project manager for the organization. As part of his job, Cesare Tavella had recently started a project for small farmers, offering them training to increase their productivity. The ICCO Cooperation has issued a statement condemning the killing of Cesare Tavella. They described him as a hard-working professional who was “committed to help[ing] the people of Bangladesh.”
The killing of Cesare Tavella has come days after several countries issued public warnings about the risks of traveling to Bangladesh. Last Friday, Australia had cautioned its citizens against visiting the country after it received information about militants planning to target westerners. The Australian cricket team also postponed a planned tour to the country following the warnings. Britain has also issued a warning that asks its citizens to avoid traveling to Bangladesh. The United States Embassy in Dhaka has also issued warnings to its own employees and asked them to take whatever precautions they can to protect themselves. Security in general has also been tightened across the country.
[Image via Alan Cleaver/Flickr, La Stampa]