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Bangladesh aid worker’s death claimed by ‘IS’

An Italian working with a church-linked Dutch NGO in Dhaka has been murdered in an attack later claimed by a group which said it was Islamic State.

The fatal shooting of Caesar Tavella, 50, occurred while he was jogging after work on 28 Sep in Gulshan, the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladeshi capital. According to the Bangladeshi Home Minister, “It appears to be a planned murder.”

Local eyewitnesses told police that the killers had been riding on a single motorcycle following Tavella before opening fire three times.

Tavella was a veterinary surgeon working as project manager on food security issues for ICCO (Inter Church Coordination Committee) Cooperation, a development aid organization of Protestant churches based in the Netherlands.

The online claim of responsibility by an IS-affiliated group is being investigated by local officials and the Italian foreign ministry. The alleged IS statement warned “citizens of the crusader coalition would not be safe in Muslim nations”. If substantiated, this would be the first attack by Islamic State in Bangladesh.

“There is general apprehension with regards to the presence of the IS in Bangladesh,” Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka told Fides News Agency. Governments of the US, Britain, Canada and Australia issued diplomatic warnings to their citizens after the attack.

Four bloggers with secularist views have been murdered in 2015 by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh, a 90% Muslim nation ruled by a secular constitution.

Saeed Abedini completes third year in prison

Saeed Abedini has served three years of an eight-year jail sentence for alleged anti-state activities.

The American-Iranian pastor, who lived in the US with his wife, Naghmeh, and their two children, was detained in October 2012 during a visit to see his family.

After a recent visit to see him at Rajaei-Shahr Prison in Karaj, a family member said he fears new charges may be brought against him. Since his imprisonment, the government has repeatedly threatened that his sentence could be extended.

Abedini has consistently asserted that he poses no threat to the government and was in Iran to help with the building of a government-approved orphanage. Abedini says that, having been warned about his involvement with “house churches” in 2009, he had decided to focus on humanitarian activities during subsequent visits.

New initiative encourages FoR in the Commonwealth

A new freedom of religion initiative to encourage Commonwealth parliamentarians to speak out about the issue will launch on 1 October in the UK.

The Commonwealth Initiative for the Freedom of Religion or Belief (CIFORB) will be based at the University of Birmingham's Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, and in Westminster. It will provide research and training and establish a Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry to work in 'strategically-significant nations' helping parliamentarians find opportunities to speak out. 

The CIFORB team will be led by UK peer, Baroness Berridge, a religious freedom advocate, who will work alongside university academics from Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol.

Two of the 53 members of the Commonwealth - Pakistan and Nigeria - are listed in Open Doors' top 10 places in the world where Christians face the worst persecution.  The Commonwealth, which is mostly made up of states that were territories of the former British Empire, has a stated commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The announcement comes shortly after the White House appointment of Knox Thames as US Special Envoy for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

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